“Value of life” testimony as junk science: a new article by Trent Collier


Trent Collier‘s article How Much Are You Worth? Value-of-Life Testimony and Its Evidentiary Challenges appears in the Summer 2013 Negligence Law Section Newsletter and is scheduled for publication in an upcoming issue of Claims Management Magazine. The article discusses expert testimony on “hedonic damages,” where some economists claim to measure the monetary value of human lives. The article shows that this testimony is widely rejected by courts and economists alike — and for good reason.

For example, all of the studies underlying expert quantification of the value of an “average” human life were conducted in a context markedly different from valuation in a lawsuit. The underlying studies examine how much consumers spend on safety devices, how much they demand in extra pay for high-risk jobs, and how regulatory agencies value lives in cost-benefit analyses. None of these studies focuses on specific human beings–the parents, children, friends, and loved ones whose losses are at issue in litigation. Using these studies to derive the value of specific human lives is, as one court put it, comparing apples to oranges. The “economic” methodology underlying hedonic damage testimony begins on a shaky foundation and gets worse from there.

How Much Are You Worth? highlights the primary bases for excluding this testimony in Michigan and beyond. The full text of the article is available here.

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