Horowitz, I. A., & Bordens, K. S. (1990). An experimental investigation of procedural issues in complex tort trials. Law and Human Behavior, 14, 269-285.
Juries in unitary trial structure more likely to find defendant caused plaintiff injury and assign liability but assigned less responsibility and awarded fewer compensatory damages compared with separate trials. Lower damages also resulted when liability evidence presented first as opposed to general causation evidence.
An investigation of the impact of innovations in civil trial procedure manipulated trial structure (unitary vs. separated trial issues), order of decisions (liability or causation first), and number of decisions made (one to four) in a simulated toxic tort trial. Juries gave verdicts and damage awards. Recordings were made of the juries’ deliberations. The results showed significantly more verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs in unitary trials (causation, liability, and damages heard together) as opposed to separated trials. However, average damage awards were higher in the separated than in the unitary trial conditions. Juries assigned more responsibility to the defendant in the unitary trial. Juries also used the totality of the evidence to decide all issues, especially general causation, which contained the most ambiguous testimony. The performance of these simulated juries in complex litigation was discussed in terms of group and individual cognitive factors.