>> Case Study
Wrongful Death Mock Trial
In many instances economists play a more important role in court cases than the judge, lawyers, etc. For example, in the Exxon-Valdez case, the guilt of the defendant was never in doubt; however, the amount of damages was, and this is where the role of economists comes into play. In all wrongful death cases, the damages to be paid by the defendant are a central issue, one which must be addressed by economists. For this reason, both the prosecution and the defense pay upwards of $500/hour to retain labor economists whose job is to come up with an estimate of the damages to be awarded. While the economists on both sides of the case use legitimate methods of calculating these damages, their estimates can sometimes differ by as much as $1 million dollars or more.
Your job is to determine the damages to be awarded given the attached factual background (equal to your estimate of the present value of the individual's after-tax lifetime earnings that their family will be losing out on given their death). Your job is not to determine guilt or innocence, your job instead is to come up with the damages that should be awarded (in dollars), and be able to defend your answer. Note that there is no right or wrong answer in these types of cases, instead the side that presents the most logical and defendable case wins.
While preparing your case you may want to address issues such as: labor supply, participation rates/hours of work, the discount rate, investment in human capital, labor demand, wages, fringe benefits, unions, the government, discrimination, taxes, inflation and non-market services among numerous other issues.
Obviously the defense side of each case is trying to minimize the damages to be awarded, while the prosecution is trying to maximize the damages to be awarded. For your case, you will be the defense side (defendant's lawyer). Keep in mind that your estimate has to be reasonable and defendable.
Write a legal "brief" regarding economic losses in the wrongful death suit (page 4) that contain:
1- your estimate of the damages which should be awarded.
2- a discussion of how you got to this number.
3- a discussion on why your opponent's answer (any other answer) is less valid than yours (remember that there is no "right" answer, so your discussion should focus on why your methodology is better than theirs).
4- a bibliography/reference section.
5- an appendix with all calculations used to arrive at your estimate.
There are many sources of data that are applicable to this project, but below I have listed several sources that should provide you with a starting point:
Inflation measures, wages by race and occupation, fringe benefit estimates, time use, and many other labor statistics:
Statistics on income, labor force measures, occupations, race, school costs, school enrollment, working at home, etc.:
Personal income, and other statistical measures:
Life expectancy, etc:
Loads of info on interest rates, labor statistics, prices, etc:
Working Life/Life Expectancy Calculator, Non-Pecuniary Damages Calculator, Present Value Damages Calculator:
Case Scenario & Details: Next Page!
Case Scenario & Details
The relevant details of the case are as follows:
Victim: Isabell Perez
Marital Status: Unmarried
Children: 1 (born 2/4/2014)
Education: Puyallup High School (Puyallup, WA) GPA: 2.75.
Work Experience: Footlocker 6/10/2010 - 3/14/2015
Isabell Perez was a young Hispanic Woman who was killed at a concert due to faulty death of the stage. Her family is suing the concert facility for damages owing to the wrongful death of their daughter. There is no disputing blame; your expertise is simply being called on to determine the size of economic damages to be awarded.
Isabell has worked Full time at a Footlocker since she was 16. Her long-term goal was to start her own graphic/web design company in Seattle. To help her achieve this goal, she had recently been hired as a part time employee with a large graphic design company in Seattle where she hoped to learn enough to start her own business. However, she was killed prior to starting at this new part time job.
In this state, damages for economic losses are not subject to tax (meaning that you do not have to account for taxes on any amount awarded to the plaintiff).
Again, you are the defendant's lawyer!