Research Handbooks in Law and Economics series
Edited by Jennifer H. Arlen
Throughout its history, the jury has attracted both stiff criticism and unqualified praise, viewed by turns as an incompetent, naïve, and biased decision maker and as an astute repository of folk wisdom and common sense. Here, we examine how the American jury actually behaves in the tort cases that produce the majority of civil jury trials. The evidence shows that juries usually use reasonable strategies to evaluate the conflicting evidence they are given. They are active problem-solvers who typically work to produce defensible verdicts. Nonetheless, juries are occasionally misled by the strategies they rely on to reach decisions. Their decision making processes are also at times undermined by limitations, many of them unnecessary, imposed by the legal system. In this chapter, we discuss the empirical literature relating to jury decisions in tort cases.
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