The Effects of Outcome Severity, Damage Amounts and Counterfactual Thinking on Juror Punitive Damage Award Decision Making

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Punitive damage awards are designed to penalize the defendant for negligent behavior and deter others from acting in a similar manner. The effects of outcome severity and the provision of a monetary anchor on mock jurors' punitive damage award decisions in a medical negligence case were examined in the current study. Jurors often find it difficult to arrive at a dollar amount while making such decisions, and they tend to be influenced by extralegal factors such as outcome severity, as well as by various cognitive heuristics, such as counterfactual thinking. Results indicate that jurors are influenced by suggested monetary anchors while determining damage awards. Participants' decisions regarding monetary damages were not influenced by the severity of the outcome (which is in accordance with the law). This was also reflected in participants' open-ended responses. When asked about the key factors that influenced their decisions regarding damage awards, very few made reference to the outcome. Overall, the results indicate that participants were influenced by the provision of monetary anchors, but not outcome severity in their decision-making process regarding damage award amounts.

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