Journal of Empirical Legal Studies
Ronald J. Allen and Alexia Brunet, The Judicial Treatment of Noneconomic Compensatory Damages in the 19th Century, 4 J. Empirical Legal Stud. 365 (2007), available at https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/faculty-articles/1244.
Do high verdicts for tort cases containing noneconomic damages have historical precedent? We present the results of our empirical inquiry into the treatment of noneconomic compensatory damages by the courts from 1800-1900. Using 1,175 tort cases from this era, we show that, notwithstanding constant reiteration of jury discretion over damages, courts tightly controlled awards. In fact, no case prior to 1900 permitted a noneconomic compensatory damages award exceeding $450,000 in current dollars. Logistic regression results reveal that an increase in total monetary damages is positively and significantly related to the probability of reversal when noneconomic damages were claimed, and that comparability review decreases the probability of reversal.
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