Valuing Black Lives: A Constitutional Challenge to the Use of Race-Based Tables in Calculating Tort Damages

76 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2017 Last revised: 14 Feb 2019

See all articles by Ronen Avraham

Ronen Avraham

Tel Aviv University - Tel Aviv University, Buchmann Faculty of Law; University of Texas at Austin - School of Law

Kim Yuracko

Northwestern University School of Law

Date Written: April 19, 2017

Abstract

This paper challenges a practice in tort law that is ubiquitous, yet little noticed—namely the use of race-based wage, life expectancy and work-life expectancy tables when calculating damage awards. The practice results in damage awards that are significantly lower for black victims than for white victims and creates an incentive for potential tortfeasors to allocate risk disproportionately to minority communities. This paper argues that the use of such tables is not only unfair, it is unconstitutional. Specifically, the paper argues that the use of race-based tables to calculate tort damages violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The paper goes on to consider the broader implications of this argument and to explain why the move to truly race-neutral damage awards would require even more radical changes to our current tort system.

Keywords: Eased-Based wages, tort damages

Suggested Citation

Avraham, Ronen and Yuracko, Kim, Valuing Black Lives: A Constitutional Challenge to the Use of Race-Based Tables in Calculating Tort Damages (April 19, 2017). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 17-13; U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 674. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2955165 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2955165

Ronen Avraham (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Tel Aviv University, Buchmann Faculty of Law ( email )

Tel Aviv
Israel

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States
(512) 232-1357 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.utexas.edu/law/faculty/profile.php?id=ra22397

Kim Yuracko

Northwestern University School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-3466 (Phone)

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