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Decisionmaking About General Damages: A Comparison of Jurors, Judges, and Lawyers
Roselle Wissler and Allen J. Hart et al.
98 Mich. L. Rev. 751 (1999)
Open Access  |  Library Access


The research reported in this Article investigates jurors' perceptions of injury seriousness and awards of general damages, and compares them to judges' and lawyers' responses to the same injuries. We developed regression models for each group of decision makers to determine which attributes of the injuries had what degree of impact on injury severity judgments and on awards. The models also examined how differences in geography, demography, and experiences affected decisions. The models showed a remarkable degree of similarity among the decision-making groups when evaluating the severity of injuries. That is, jurors, judges, and lawyers largely relied on the same injury attributes in similar ways and gave them similar relative weight. When it came to translating injury perceptions into monetary awards, however, more differences among the groups appeared, and the predictive power of the models declined. The findings suggest that the differences between jurors' awards and those of the other groups do not reflect fundamental differences in decision making, but rather a loss of consistency in translating perceptions of injury severity into damages. That loss of consistency likely can be attributed to the fact that jurors lack the frame of reference created by other cases that is readily available to judges and lawyers. The article concludes with a discussion of the policy implications of the findings.
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