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Shifting Plaintiffs' Fees versus Increasing Damage Awards

  • Louis Kaplow

Shifting successful plaintiffs' fees to defendants and increasing damage awards are alternative ways to achieve similar results: increasing plaintiffs' incentives to sue and raising defendants' expected payments. This paper shows that relying on higher damage awards is more efficient than shifting plaintiffs' fees. The reason is that fee-shifting is, perversely, more valuable for plaintiffs with higher litigation costs. Thus, it is possible to substitute higher damage awards for fee-shifting in a manner that leaves deterrence unaffected while eliminating the suits of plaintiffs with the highest litigation costs.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4263.

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Date of creation: Jan 1993
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Rand Journal of Economics, vol 24, no. 4, pp. 625-630, (Winter 1993)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4263
Note: LE
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  1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Yeon-Koo Che, 1991. "Decoupling Liability: Optimal Incentives for Care and Litigation," NBER Working Papers 3634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Katz, Avery, 1987. "Measuring the Demand for Litigation: Is the English Rule Really Cheaper?," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 143-76, Fall.
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