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Lauren Goldman serves as co-head of Mayer Brown’s worldwide Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice. She is a member of the Supreme Court & Appellate group in the firm’s New York office.   Lauren has worked on many successful appeals from large punitive awards, including Philip Morris USA v. Williams, 127 S. Ct. 1057 (2007).

Lauren regularly litigates punitive damages issues in trial courts as well:  she has served as lead legal strategy counsel in connection with more than a dozen high-stakes jury trials, including two cases in which the plaintiffs unsuccessfully sought more than $1 billion in damages.  Lauren has handled legal issues at retrials limited to the amount of punitive and/or compensatory damages in Oregon, California, and Florida; in each case, the retrial jury awarded a fraction of the original jury’s verdict.  Lauren writes and speaks regularly on the subject of punitive damages law and, with Andy Frey and Evan Tager, is a co-author of the chapter on punitive damages in the West treatise Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts.

Read Lauren's full bio.

Beverage bottle openedLast week, in Lewellen v. Franklin, the Missouri Supreme Court sharply restricted the reach of the State’s punitive damages cap statute, which limits punitive damages to the greater of $500,000 or five times the compensatory damages.  The court reasoned that applying the statute to common-law causes of action that existed prior to 1820, when Missouri adopted its Constitution, violates the plaintiff’s right to trial by jury.
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The lawyer for the plaintiff in a punitive damages case frequently asks the jury to return a particular amount of punitive damages.  Often the requested amount is very large—far more than the plaintiff realistically expects to recover, and certainly greater than the Constitution would permit.

Concept-Stuck_Anchor_16353254LargeThis strategy has a clear purpose:  Suggesting an arbitrary large number sets the jury’s “frame of reference” and anchors its assessment of the proper amount of punishment.  A substantial and mounting body of social science research demonstrates that jurors exposed to high numerical “anchors” return much higher awards—even if those anchors are self-evidently arbitrary, and even if they are presented to jurors as “limits,” “caps,” or “maximums.”  The plaintiff’s request has the effect of starting the jury’s discussion at the suggested level—even if the request bears no relationship at all to the facts or the evidence in the case.


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