May 2, 2008

Does the Bible Encourage Lawsuits for Punitive Damages?

Michael Roberts at has a post entitled "Trial Lawyers and the Bible," in which he states that the work of plaintiffs' lawyers has biblical roots. He cites several biblical passages which support the notion of providing compensation for property damages and personal injuries. He also cites a passage from the book of Exodus that contemplates an early form of punitive damages. I wonder whether the bible also authorizes the concept of defending against false or excessive claims.

ADDITIONAL COMMENT (BY Jeremy Rosen): Assuming biblical passages are a good source for punitive damages, it is interesting that one of the cited passages suggests that single digit ratios between punitive and compensatory damages are required: "If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep. . . . (Exodus 22:1-4)."