The Taxpayer's Burden from Product-Related Harm

61 Pages Posted: 27 May 2011

See all articles by W. Jonathan Cardi

W. Jonathan Cardi

Wake Forest University - School of Law

Ruth Ruttenberg

National Labor College

Estye Fenton

Northeastern University

Date Written: 2011


Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent every year in the public sector as a result of death, injury, and illness associated with products. The taxpayer takes on this burden, a reality that ought to be considered by courts and policy makers when setting the standards for liability and levels of regulation governing products. Yet, to date, the government has made no attempt to trace specific government expenditures to product-related injuries. Indeed, due to the dearth of government data on the subject, no one to the authors’ knowledge has even constructed an estimate of product-related public expenditures. This article attempts to bridge this gap by gauging the taxpayer’s burden from two vantage points. First, the article collects data with regard to government spending potentially related to product harm and then approximates the percentage of expenditures traceable to such harm. The result of this methodology is an estimated $327.8 billion annual burden on the taxpayer. As a check on this figure, the article approaches the question from the opposite direction. Marshaling existing data on the annual number of product-related injuries, the article assigns an average per-injury cost and then assesses the percentage of the total cost borne by the government. According to this second methodology, the annual taxpayer burden associated with products is $1.089 trillion. Despite consistent attempts by the authors to adopt conservative measures in conducting this study, the resulting numbers are astounding and must not be ignored in the policy debates ongoing in courts, legislatures, and media centers across the country.

Suggested Citation

Cardi, W. Jonathan and Ruttenberg, Ruth and Fenton, Estye, The Taxpayer's Burden from Product-Related Harm (2011). Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

W. Jonathan Cardi (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

Ruth Ruttenberg

National Labor College ( email )

United States
(301) 571-4226 (Phone)

Estye Fenton

Northeastern University

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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