Dateline: February, 2007, Issue 3

How do jurors' tort reform attitudes affect civil and criminal case verdicts?

Jurors' attitudes about lawsuits and the state of the justice system in America often predict their verdicts. An extreme plaintiff-leaning juror believes victims should always be compensated, regardless of fault. An extreme defense-leaning juror believes people are too quick to sue, that damage awards are excessive and must be curtailed, and is against awarding money solely on the basis of pain and suffering.

Hans and Lofquist (1994) studied jurors' litigation crisis attitudes in civil cases, focusing on two beliefs: that there are too many frivolous lawsuits and there are unreasonably large damage awards. Jurors holding strong litigation crisis attitudes voted to give less money when deciding on damages. These researchers concluded that attitudes about a litigation crisis were significantly related to jurors' judgments in civil cases.

Moran and colleagues (1994) looked at 3 criminal cases (controlled substance conspiracy, RICO, medical insurance fraud) and one civil case (personal injury), and asked jurors whether they favored tort reform (i.e., for or against caps on damages, for or against awarding money solely on the basis of pain and suffering). Jurors in favor of tort reform (i.e., for caps, against pain & suffering awards) were prosecution-oriented in the criminal trials and defense-oriented in the civil trial. These researchers comment that people favoring tort reform think they are stricter about right and wrong than most people.

Jurors' tort reform attitudes affect their verdicts in both criminal and civil cases.

Source Moran, G., Cutler, B. L., & De Lisa, A. (1994). Attitudes toward tort reform, scientific jury selection, and jury bias: Verdict inclination in criminal and civil trials. Law and Psychology Review, 18, pp. 309-328.

Source Hans, V. P. & Lofquist, W. S. (1994). Perceptions of civil justice: The litigation crisis attitudes of civil jurors. Behavioral Sciences & The Law, 12, pp. 181-196.