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Death, Happiness, and the Calculation of Compensatory Damages

Andrew J. Oswald and Nattavudh Powdthavee
The Journal of Legal Studies
Vol. 37, No. S2, Legal Implications of the New Research on HappinessA Conference Sponsored by the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics at the University of Chicago Law School (June 2008), pp. S217-S251
DOI: 10.1086/595674
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/595674
Page Count: 35
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Death, Happiness, and the Calculation of Compensatory Damages
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Abstract

Abstract This paper presents a study of the mental distress caused by bereavement. The greatest emotional losses are from the death of a spouse, the second greatest from the death of a child, and the third from the death of a parent. The paper explores how happiness regression equations might be used in tort cases to calculate compensatory damages for emotional harm and pain and suffering. We examine alternative well‐being variables, discuss adaptation, consider the possibility that bereavement affects someone’s marginal utility of income, and suggest a procedure for correcting for the endogeneity of income. Although the paper’s contribution is methodological and further research is needed, some illustrative compensation amounts are discussed.

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