Category Archives: Commercial Litigation

September 16, 2009

Don’t Count on a ‘Recession Effect’ When it Comes to Damage Awards

by: Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm

If you have had a trial docketed within the last year or in the coming year, then chances are that you have wondered whether current economic hard times have encouraged in juries either a greater impulse to distribute money from corporations to individual plaintiffs, or conversely, a tight-fistedness that has held down damage awards.  While jury wisdom or social psychology arguments could be marshaled in support of either supposition, on the question of whether hard-times have turned jurors into benefactors or misers, the data so far at least seems to answer “no,” and “no.”  Even in the face of a current economic recession in which about eight out of ten Americans report to have been personally affected,[1] juries continue to award or resist damages based on long-established tendencies.  You wouldn’t know that, however, from the spate of recent commentary on the recession’s expected effects in the courtroom.  In a recent piece in The Jury Expert, University of Colorado Professor Edie Greene notes several examples of speculation on the effects of a recession on jurors moving in either direction.  Commentators reason that the recession could be good for plaintiffs (because of the anger directed against corporate America) or bad for plaintiffs (because of the widespread nature of the suffering and the feeling that plaintiffs are no worse off than anyone else).  A recent example of this line of commentary was published in the Wisconsin Law Review this week, but as Dr. Greene notes, the real answer will depend on what the data tell us. Continue reading

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