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The Impact of Jury Instructions on the Fusion of Liability and Compensatory Damages
Roselle Wissler and Katie A. Rector et al.
25 Law and Human Behavior 125 (2001)
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This empirical study examined whether special jury instructions or the bifurcation of liability and compensation decisions would counter the tendency for evidence concerning the defendant’s liability to affect damages awards. Mock jurors made liability and award decisions in response to a case description in which the level of defendant responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries and the type or timing of damages instructions were systematically varied. Instructions not to discount awards for uncertainty about the defendant’s fault and instructions not to increase awards to punish the defendant’s carelessness reduced the impact of the defendant’s conduct on awards, while bifurcation did not. Additional findings suggest, at least in the context of the present study, that discounting may be a somewhat more potent process than surcharging. Possible explanations for these effects are discussed.
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