Dateline: May, 2007, Issue 2

How are jurors affected by dollar amounts requested by plaintiffs?

Hastie and colleagues (2002) examined how dollar amounts requested by a plaintiff influence jurors' damage awards. In this research, a plaintiff attorney asked one group of jurors for punitive damages up to three times higher than the amount asked of another group of jurors for the same case and fact evidence.

The dollar amounts requested by the plaintiff attorney in closing arguments had a dramatic effect on the size of the jury's punitive damage award: the higher the requested amount, the higher the awards made. Juries receiving the higher damage request awarded 2.5 times as much as those hearing the lower request.

Judge's instructions that arguments by the attorneys are not evidence did not eliminate the effect.

In sum, the higher the dollar amount requested, the more money juries awarded.

Source Hastie, R., Schkade, D. A., & Payne, J. W. (2002). Do plaintiffs' requests and plaintiffs' identities matter. In C. R. Sunstein, R. Hastie, J. W. Payne, D. A. Schkade, & W. K. Viscusi (Eds.), Punitive damages: How juries decide (pp. 62-74). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.