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Punitive damages and the recklessness requirement with uninformed injurers

Author

Listed:
  • Bhole, Bharat
  • Wagner, Jeffrey

Abstract

Juries/courts sometimes award large punitive damages when the probability of detecting harm is high and take the recklessness of actions into account. However, economic theory suggests punitive damages should generally be low in such contexts. We argue that juries may be acting wisely. In particular, we show that: (a) even if the probability of conviction is one, punitive damages can raise welfare by aligning an injurer's perceived and actual benefit of care; and (b) a recklessness requirement for awarding punitive damages can be welfare-enhancing when there is uncertainty about the court's view of appropriate care.

Suggested Citation

  • Bhole, Bharat & Wagner, Jeffrey, 2010. "Punitive damages and the recklessness requirement with uninformed injurers," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 253-264, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:30:y:2010:i:3:p:253-264
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    7. Chu, C.Y. Cyrus & Huang, Chen-Ying, 2004. "On the definition and efficiency of punitive damages," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 241-254, June.
    8. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Kaplow, Louis, 1992. "Optimal Sanctions When Individuals Are Imperfectly Informed about the Probability of Apprehension," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 365-370, June.
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