In the late 1980s, I was convinced that the value of statistical life (VSL) would soon be the basis of courtroom compensation for quality of life loss to injury and possibly even to death. I saw that changeover in compensation rules as a great opportunity that posed grave danger (Miller 1988, 1989). It seemed to offer a way to get off the verdict roulette wheel through scheduling, but without scheduling, it risked raising payouts and reducing predictability. As it turned out, quality of life valuation through a VSL regime (hedonic damages) has not become the norm. Indeed, as Ireland (2000) documented, it suffered heavy courtroom setbacks in the 1990s. It has fared better since, judging from the cases cited by Ireland (2007).

This paper looks back at the arguments that kept hedonic damages from taking off and considers their validity. It then returns to my early...

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