The Value of the Value of a Statistical Life in the Courtroom


Thomas F. Cargill and Eugenia Larmore. 2021. The Value of the Value of a Statistical Life in the Courtroom. Journal of Legal Economics 27(2): pp. 1–41.

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Hedonic damages experts claim they are capable of estimating the lost value or enjoyment of life for a specific individual based on the Value of a Statistical Life (VSL) and VSL-based estimates are ‘‘settled science,’’ scientifically founded and generally accepted in the economics and forensic economics communities. This paper combines in one place the many issues associated with hedonic damages and provides perspective on some issues that have not been extensively addressed in the past, such as the continued misrepresentation of W. Kip Viscusi’s published research. The paper reviews the evolution of VSL-based estimates of hedonic damages, reasons for skepticism of the VSL concept as a government regulatory variable and of hedonic damages testimony in the courtroom, and the various rationales offered by hedonic damages experts to justify their approach. We conclude the VSL concept is problematic at the general level and meritless at the individual level in the courtroom.


Eugenia Larmore, Thomas F. Cargill

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