Corporations and Human Life
28 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2017 Last revised: 6 Apr 2017
Date Written: 2017
This article considers a hypothetical corporate decision that will generate $5 million of profit today but result in the loss of one human life in ten years. This example is not abstract; corporations in a range of businesses engage in decisions and oversight that affect risk to human life: autonomous cars and airbags, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and many categories of consumer products. Historically, social policy has responded to corporations that kill primarily through regulation and tort liability. I ask whether corporate law and governance might also address these issues. If corporations really are “people,” how should we think about them when they kill? The article assesses the literatures on the value of human life and relevant discount rates, and considers proposals to incentivize directors and officers to consider more explicitly the risks their corporations pose to human life.
Keywords: Corporate Law, Liability, Tort Liability, Regulation, Regulation and Tort Liability Costs in Terms of Human Life
JEL Classification: A00, A10, K10, K20, K23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation