January 17, 2011

Research confirms that juries award higher amounts of punitive damages than judges do, but not for the reasons you might think

Cornell law professors Theodore Eisenberg & Michael Heise have uploaded a paper to SSRN entitled "Judge-Jury Difference in Punitive Damages Awards: Who Listens to the Supreme Court." 

The authors state that data collected in 2005 confirms a "higher amount of punitive damage awards relative to compensatory damages awards in cases tried to juries than in bench trials."  Some readers might assume that judges award more modest punitive damages awards because judges are aware of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent case law, and they don't want to be reversed on appeal.  Not so fast, the authors say.  According to them, juries award higher amounts only because juries are more likely to get the types of cases that generate big awards.

Hat tip: Civil Procedure & Federal Courts blog