$213 million? Seems to random...
September 28, 2008 9:24 PM   Subscribe

This question always comes up with my husband and I when watching Boston Legal. How does the jury decide how much to reward in damages?

I've never been on a jury, and I admit the majority of my limited knowledge of the legal system comes from Boston Legal. Well, I am always confused as to how a jury determines an amount to award.
In the most recent episode, someone was awarded $213 million. It just seems like such a terrible arbitrary number.

So what criteria is there for determining a monetary value in a court case?
posted by Becko to Law & Government (5 answers total)
The specific answer will vary with the case, but the general idea is to bring the plaintiff back to the point before the harm was done. Of course, it's impossible to unring a bell, so this is an inexact exercise whenever the harm is more than monetary.

Both sides present evidence about the amount of harm. That might be evidence of lost wages, hospital bills, the pain and suffering that plaintiff describes as a result of the injury, etc.

There's a whole law school class on this subject, called Remedies.
posted by ferdydurke at 10:18 PM on September 28, 2008

First, nothing you get from Boston Legal could possibly be called knowledge of the legal system, unless you count knowing that there are things called courts, lawyers and judges. Just about everything else is wrong.

Second, the answer varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the basics have a fairly satisfactory Wikipedia article.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:00 PM on September 28, 2008

In my experience as a juror, it's a 4 step process. First, the plaintiff tries to make a case for certain types of damages, and often will ask for a certain amount in damages. Second, the judge provides the jury with instructions on a) which type of damages may be considered (see the Wikipedia article mentioned above) and b) what guidelines to use in determining whether that category of damages can be awarded. Third, the jury makes those decisions. And fourth, if the jury has decided to award damages, they then decide whether to award the amount requested, or something totally different (and go around and around and around on this for hours).
posted by amelioration at 5:44 AM on September 29, 2008

I served on a jury in a personal-injury case where we had to determine the awards. We made it all up, based on the records provided of any actual costs the plaintiff had incurred and their believability as far as their account of "pain and suffering". We were given no guidelines from the judge. Infact, we could have awarded NO awards, if we so felt.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:36 AM on September 29, 2008

When I served on a jury for a personal injury case, there was a lot of bickering about what the final amount should be. We finally decided we'd each come up with a number (we managed to agree on a cap - I think it was $50,000), then we averaged all of our responses.
posted by the bricabrac man at 9:15 AM on September 29, 2008

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