The Social Costs of Punitive Damages Against Corporations in Environmental and Safety Tort

Harvard Law School, John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Business Working Paper No. 237

Posted: 26 Feb 1999

See all articles by W. Kip Viscusi

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

Date Written: July 1998

Abstract

Legal scholars and judges have long expressed concerns over the unpredictability and arbitrariness of punitive damages awards. Proposed remedies, such as restricting punitive damages to narrowly defined circumstances, have not yet met with success. This paper addresses the threshold issue of whether, on balance, punitive damages have benefits in excess of their costs. There is no evidence of a significant deterrent effect based on an original empirical analysis of a wide range of risk measures for the states with and without punitive damages. These measures included accident rates, chemical spills, medical malpractice injuries, insurance performance, and other outcomes that should be affected by punitive damages, but which are not. Punitive damages can and do cause substantial economic harm through their random infliction of economic penalties.

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Viscusi, W. Kip, The Social Costs of Punitive Damages Against Corporations in Environmental and Safety Tort (July 1998). Harvard Law School, John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Business Working Paper No. 237, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=150826

W. Kip Viscusi (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7715 (Phone)
615-322-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
1,198
PlumX Metrics