Punitive damages in financial injury jury verdicts.

Moller, E. K., Pace, N. M., & Carroll, S. J. (1999). Punitive damages in financial injury jury verdicts. Journal of Legal Studies, 28, 283-339.

This report is the executive summary of an Institute for Civil Justice analysis of trends and patterns in punitive damage awards in financial injury cases in selected jurisdictions during the period 1985 through 1994. The jurisdictions include all state trial courts of general jurisdiction in the states of California and New York; Cook County, Illinois (Chicago); the St. Louis, Missouri, metropolitan area; and Harris County, Texas (Houston). These data are supplemented by information obtained from the Administrative Office of the Alabama Courts for verdicts reached in that state’s trial courts of general jurisdiction during the period 1992 to 1997. The study also estimates what percentage of the financial injury punitive awards in the database would have been affected by caps of various sizes and how the caps would have affected the total amount of punitive damages awarded in such cases.

Overall plaintiff win rate near 50% but considerable variation in plaintiff success rate as a function of case type (highest in contract disputes, lowest in
medical malpractice). Median ratio of punitive to compensatory awards was 1.4, except much higher in AL. Punitive damages varied considerably by case type and jurisdiction. Likelihood of punitive awards substantially higher in CA and cases involving financial injury or intentional torts. Very strong correlation between log of compensatory award and log of punitive award.

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