An empirical study of punitive damages
This article reports and discusses the results of an empirical study of punitive damages. It examines 146 claims that were decided in all parts of the UK (save for Scotland, which does not recognise punitive damages) by first instance courts in the first 16 years of the twenty-first century. The study is the first of its kind to be conducted in the UK. In the morass of data, important evidence is uncovered regarding punitive damages. Our most significant findings include (1) that punitive damages (when claimed) are awarded reasonably regularly, (2) that the average award of punitive damages is relatively modest, (3) that there is considerable uniformity in terms of the size of punitive damages awards, and (4) that actions for defamation are unlikely to constitute an important source of punitive damages awards. These (and other) findings cast considerable doubt upon widely held views regarding punitive damages.