AWARD DAMAGES

Often times, the considerations in jury deliberations are unrelated liability or fault, and may focus on the fixed amounts, perceived as adequate compensation, to each juror. Some jurors may have preconceived notions that attorneys ask for more than is required to adequately compensate an injured party. Some jurors may consider factors such as attorney’s fees, taxable portions of award amounts, or the Plaintiff’s Insurance, to provide a framework for arriving at an award amount. Whatever factors a juror utilizes to reduce or supplement an award amount, this perception of a base award amount must first be established.

Expert testimony can assist in overcoming juror confusion, contradictory testimony, and issues of credibility, therefore providing the juror with a fixed award amount to reference during deliberations. There are multiple studies evidencing the impact of expert testimony in a juror’s decision to award specific damage amounts.

In one such study, entitled, “Determining Damages:  The Influence of Expert Testimony on Jurors’ Decision study,” Raitz, Greene, Goodman, and Loftus conducted a study in which mock jurors were separated into three groups for the purpose of assessing testimonial impact. The first group was presented with no expert testimony; the second group was presented with testimony from the Plaintiff’s expert who suggested an award amount of $719,354; the third group was presented with Plaintiff’s expert and suggested award amount, and also a defense expert, who suggested an award amount of $321,000. The median result from each group in this study clearly evidences the impact of expert testimony. The first group, which heard no expert testimony, determined an award amount of $366,000. The second group, which heard testimony from only the Plaintiff’s expert, awarded $700,000. The third group, which heard expert testimony from both sides, arrived at an award amount of $630,000.

Another example evidencing the beneficial impact of expert testimony is “The Ad Damnum, Jury Instructions, and Personal Injury Damage Awards,” in which J. Zuel conducted a study based upon an actual case. In this study, jurors were provided with suggested compensation amounts, and the results demonstrated that “when an exact dollar figure was requested, half the awards matched that figure.”

It is important to note that the evidentiary value of expert testimony is often dependent on the specific area of law, and/or the particular facts of case. The plethora of available scholarly articles regarding juror impact of expert testimony, include an equally infinite amount of matter-specific discussions. Through research, attorneys may use sociological data to assess the effects of expert witness testimony in relation to a specific scenario.

By: Alicia McKnight, J.D.