Economics expert witness advises on measuring the value of an individual’s enjoyment of life

    economics expert witnessAn economics expert witness for the defense advises that there is no general acceptance among economists for measuring the value of an individual’s enjoyment of life. This case takes place in New Mexico and involves a pipe-fitter who was working for a welding company on an elevated steel platform. He attempted to descend to a lower level using a ladder attached to the platform. He lost his footing when his foot slipped on a one-inch electrical conduit that was behind the ladder. He was unable to stop himself from falling because the ladder’s side rails were constructed of angle iron and he hit his hand on a cable tray box abutting the side rail. He fell between 15 and 20 feet and broke his heel and suffered severe neck and back injuries. The worker sued for strict products liability and negligence in claims against the project owner, the general contractor, the ladder installer, the installer of the conduit and cable tray boxes, the ladder designer and manufacturer and the provider of the shop drawings.

    The plaintiff’s expert estimated that the plaintiff suffered between $5 million and $6 million in hedonic damages base on research pertaining to the value of a statistical life. The expert considered the amount of time the plaintiff spent in his leisure time and community activities. This estimate was designed to assist the jury in assessing the value of the plaintiff’s loss of enjoyment of life.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • Is there a way to adequately measure the value of an individual’s enjoyment of life?

    Expert Witness Response

    The notion that economists can come up with a dollar figure or ‘range’ for these intangible losses, which is what an estimate for ‘loss of enjoyment of life’ involves, has not attained general acceptance among economists. There is no adequate measurement that is generally accepted among economists to value an individual’s loss of enjoyment of life.

    This expert is an economics professor working for the defense. His opinion, and the general opinion of most economists, is that economics cannot measure the dollar value of an individual’s enjoyment of life or quantify intangibles such as enjoyment, happiness, pain or suffering. The value of life studies cited and relied upon by the plaintiff’s expert do not represent and do not purport to measure, the value or extent to which an individual enjoys his or her life. He concluded that the literature that the plaintiff’s expert relied on is not about how much less people enjoy their lives because of injuries.

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