View all Events
Event Governance Civil Justice

Punitive Damages and the Public Interest

Tuesday November 1999


W. Kip Viscusi John F. Cogan, Jr. Professor of Law & Economics, Harvard Law School

Regarded by many as the nation’s leading expert on the subject of risk and how it is treated in regulatory agencies and in the tort system, Professor Viscusi will discuss two of his recent papers on punitive damages: “The Social Costs of Punitive Damages Against Corporations in Environmental and Safety Torts” and “Corporate Risk Analysis: A Reckless Act?”  Recent Punitive Damage awards in the hundreds of millions, and even billions of dollars have captured the public's attention.  What will be the impact of these awards?  Will they deter undesirable and irresponsible conduct by corporate decisionmakers as their supporters claim?  Viscusi argues from a persuasive empirical base that they will not deter undesirable conduct, and in fact may undermine corporations’ ability to balance risks and costs in ways that serve society’s interest.