Academic journal article Journal of Legal Economics

Trends in Legal Decisions Involving Hedonic Damages from 2000 to 2012

Academic journal article Journal of Legal Economics

Trends in Legal Decisions Involving Hedonic Damages from 2000 to 2012

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

This paper evaluates trends in legal decisions from January 1, 2000 to October 21, 2012 that involved either economic experts testifying about "loss of enjoyment of life" or "hedonic damages" or discussions of the circumstances under which those damages can be awarded. The primary method used to find these decisions was searches using the search capacities of LexisNexis® Academic with the keywords "hedonic" and "loss of enjoyment of life." All decisions covered in this paper can be found using those keywords in searches of the LexisNexis database. The searches themselves were conducted on almost a daily basis over the past 12 years, but a comprehensive search was made as part of the preparation of this paper. Many of the descriptions that appear in the third section of this paper were written contemporaneously as decisions were reached and posted on LEXIS, and were made available at www.umsl.edu/~irelandt/Hedonic Damages.htm, but many of the descriptions have been revised in preparation of this paper.

The number of cases that can be retrieved using the LexisNexis database and the keywords "hedonic" and "loss of enjoyment of life" was 2840. Only 47 of those decisions (1.65%) contained discussion of economic experts testifying about hedonic damages or were concerned with the circumstances under which awards can be made using either term. The vast majority of decisions containing one of those damage terms mentioned claims made by plaintiffs requesting those damages or amounts awarded by juries for one of those terms, but did not involve an economic expert and did not raise questions about whether or not it was proper for awards to be made for those categories. A ruling that "hedonic damages" are not available in a wrongful death action would be included. A ruling that hedonic damages are not available to a comatose personal injury victim would be included. A ruling that $35,000 was awarded for "hedonic damages" in a personal injury case would not be included in this paper. A ruling that New York does not allow an award for hedonic damages separate from pain and suffering damages would not be included if it was only interpreting decisions prior to 2000. It would be included if it changed some aspect of New York law. For purposes of this paper, the terms will be used interchangeably as referring to the same loss of enjoyment of life.

This paper is partially an update to two papers that this author either authored or co-authored (Ireland, Johnson and Taylor, 1997, and Ireland, 2000). Some decisions in the set of descriptions provided here were also discussed in Ireland (2009). The author has been personally involved in some of the decisions described in this paper opposing the admission of hedonic damages testimony, which readers should consider in reading descriptions of those cases. No claim is made that this paper has covered all decisions that have discussed hedonic damages between 2000 and 2012. While that is hopefully not the case, it is possible that important decisions have been left out of this review. For anyone who has had to deal with the issue of hedonic damages in any consulting case work, however, it is likely that this set of descriptions will be of interest. Observations about trends indicated by those decisions comes next, followed by the descriptions of 47 decisions involving hedonic damages that were reached during the period from January 1, 2000 through October 21, 2012.

II. Trends Indicated in Legal Decisions from 2000 to 2012

In the descriptions of legal decision regarding hedonic damages that are provided in the next section, there were three decisions of Federal Circuit Courts, 16 decisions of Federal District Courts other than New Mexico, 9 decisions of Federal District Courts in the District of New Mexico, two appellate decisions in Arizona, three appellate decisions in Arkansas, one appellate decision in California, one in Louisiana, three in Mississippi, three in Montana, two in New Mexico, two in New Hampshire, one in Ohio, one in South Carolina, and one in Nevada. …

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