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The Predictability of Punitive Damages

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  • Eisenberg, Theodore, et al

Abstract

Using one year of jury trial outcomes from 45 of the nation's most populous counties, this article shows a strong and statistically significant correlation between compensatory and punitive damages. These findings are replicated in 25 years of punitive damages awards from Cook County, Illinois, and California. In addition, we find no evidence that punitive damages awards are more likely when individuals sue businesses than when individuals sue individuals. With respect to award frequency, juries rarely award punitive damages and appear to be especially reluctant to do so in the areas of law that have captured the most attention, products liability and medical malpractice. Punitive damages are most frequently awarded in business/contract cases and intentional tort cases. The frequency-of-award findings are consistent with all major studies of punitive damages. Coauthors are John Goerdt, Brian Ostrom, David Rottman, and Martin T. Wells. Copyright 1997 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Eisenberg, Theodore, et al, 1997. "The Predictability of Punitive Damages," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 623-661, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:26:y:1997:i:2:p:623-61
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/468010
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    Cited by:

    1. Kaiser, Brooks A. & Burnett, Kimberly M., 2010. "Spatial economic analysis of early detection and rapid response strategies for an invasive species," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 566-585, November.
    2. Michelle J. White, 2006. "Asbestos Litigation: Procedural Innovations and Forum Shopping," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 365-398, June.
    3. Michael Heise, 2013. "Empirical Analysis of Civil Litigation: Torts Trials in State Courts," Chapters,in: Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts, chapter 1, pages 11-30 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Theodore Eisenberg & Michael Heise, 2009. "Plaintiphobia in State Courts? An Empirical Study of State Court Trials on Appeal," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 121-155, January.
    5. Daniel P. Kessler & Daniel L. Rubinfeld, 2004. "Empirical Study of the Civil Justice System," NBER Working Papers 10825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Joni Hersch & W. Kip Viscusi, 2004. "Punitive Damages: How Judges and Juries Perform," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 1-36, January.
    7. Lakdawalla, Darius N. & Seabury, Seth A., 2012. "The welfare effects of medical malpractice liability," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 356-369.
    8. Thomas J. Miceli & Michael P. Stone, 2013. "The Determinants Of State-Level Caps On Punitive Damages: Theory And Evidence," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 31(1), pages 110-125, January.
    9. Thomas A. Eaton & David B. Mustard & Susette M. Talarico, 2005. "The Effects of Seeking Punitive Damages on the Processing of Tort Claims," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(2), pages 343-369, June.
    10. Steven Shavell, 2005. "Liability for Accidents," NBER Working Papers 11781, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Cooter, Robert D., 1999. "Punitive Damages, Social Norms, and Economic Analysis," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt7h38w307, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    12. Alison F. Del Rossi & W. Kip Viscusi, 2009. "The Changing Landscape of Blockbuster Punitive Damages Awards," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 116-161.
    13. Ethan M. J. Lieber, 2014. "Medical Malpractice Reform, the Supply of Physicians, and Adverse Selection," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(2), pages 501-527.
    14. Michelle J. White, 2002. "Explaining the Flood of Asbestos Litigation: Consolidation, Bifurcation, and Bouquet Trials," NBER Working Papers 9362, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Stephen J. Choi & Theodore Eisenberg, 2010. "Punitive Damages in Securities Arbitration: An Empirical Study," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 497-546.
    16. Thomas A. Eaton & David B. Mustard & Susette M. Talarico, 2005. "Punitive Damages and the Processing of Tort Claims," Law and Economics 0501002, EconWPA.

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