Emotional Adaptation and Lawsuit Settlements

8 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2009 Last revised: 10 Feb 2015

See all articles by Peter H. Huang

Peter H. Huang

Retired Professor; University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: December 29, 2008


John Bronsteen, Christopher Buccafusco, and Jonathan Masur argue in Hedonic Adaptation and the Settlement of Civil Lawsuits, 108 Columbia Law Review 1516 (2008) that prolonged litigation allows tort victims to adapt emotionally to even permanent injuries, and hence those lawsuits are more likely to settle and for less than if litigation took less time. This Response demonstrates that such a claim is a facile application of the hedonic adaptation literature with the following three points. First, people care about a lot more than just happiness and unhappiness. Emotions in tort litigation can be cultural evaluations. Tort victims may sue to pursue identity, justice, meaning, or vengeance. In fact, if plaintiffs fear losing litigation options, they are less likely to settle and for more than if their lawsuits proceeded faster. Second, longitudinal and more recent data finds that hedonic adaptation can be very slow and remain incomplete after many years. Third, fostering emotional adaptation via lengthy tort litigation raises a host of ethical issues and normative concerns.

Keywords: emotional adaptation, happiness, litigation, settlement, cultural cognition, meaning, identity, justice, ethics, vengeance

JEL Classification: A12, D60, D63, K00, K13, K40, K41, K49

Suggested Citation

Huang, Peter H., Emotional Adaptation and Lawsuit Settlements (December 29, 2008). 108 Columbia Law Review Sidebar 50 (2008) , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1328342

Peter H. Huang (Contact Author)

Retired Professor ( email )

University of Colorado Law School
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.peterhenryhuang.com

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

Colorado Law
401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303-492-1200 (Fax)

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