Predictors of Verdict and Punitive Damages in High-Stakes Civil Litigation

Document Type



Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Behavioral Disciplines and Activities | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Civil Law | Law | Psychiatry and Psychology


This research investigated demographic and attitudinal–psychological predictors of verdict and amount of punitive damages awarded in high-stakes civil litigation. Four hundred and forty-six surrogate jurors, selected to be representative of actual jurors, were exposed to realistic case presentations in insurance, tobacco, and pharmaceutical cases that were about to go to trial. Hierarchical regression revealed that perceptions of the existence of a litigation crisis predicted verdict in the tobacco and pharmaceutical cases after controlling for all other variables. Demographic variables predicted verdict and punitive damage awards only modestly and in different ways in the three cases. Need for cognition, strength of will and rationality, and a perception that there is a litigation crisis predicted the amount of punitive damages awarded in the tobacco case. Litigation crisis also predicted the amount of punitive damages awarded in the pharmaceutical case. Implications for jury selection are discussed.

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©2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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