Asia-Pacific Journal of Regional Science

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 589–624 | Cite as

Compensation, punishment, and deterrence: a survey on the purpose of tort damages in the case of a defective car accident in Japan

  • Daisuke MoriEmail author
  • Shuichi Takahashi
  • Yasuhiro Ikeda
Economic Analysis of Law, Politics, and Regions


Under Japanese tort law, the main purpose of damages is the compensation of a victim. The punishment of the offender and determent of similar future conduct are considered only a subordinate effect and the purpose of criminal sanctions. The Japanese court even states that punitive damages that are imposed for punishment or deterrence are contrary to the fundamental principles of the Japanese legal system. However, do ordinary Japanese people support these ideas? In this study, we investigate how the legal system of damages is perceived by means of a survey. In response to a story about a car accident caused by design flaws, we asked respondents how much they think the manufacturer should pay the victim in damages, and inquire as to how much they consider certain factors, such as compensation and deterrence. We statistically analyzed the data and found that although most consider compensation when they estimate the appropriate amount of damages, many consider deterrence and punishment as well. We demonstrate that the more they consider deterrence and punishment, the larger the amount of estimated damages becomes. In addition, we find that variances in the amount of damages increases along with the extent to which they consider these factors.


Purpose of damages Tort law in Japan Survey experiment Punitive damages Decoupling liability 

JEL Classification

K13 C21 C83 


  1. Bentler PM, Bonett DG (1980) Significance tests and goodness-of-fit in the analysis of covariance structures. Psychol Bull 88:588–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. BMW of North America, Inc. (1996) BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 US 559Google Scholar
  3. Browne MW, Cudeck R (1993) Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In: Bollen KA, Long JS (eds) Testing structural equation models. Sage, Newbury Park, pp 136–162Google Scholar
  4. Collins PM Jr (2008) Friends of the supreme court: interest groups and judicial decision making. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Developments in the law (1997) Jury determination of punitive damages. Harv L Rev 110:1408–1536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Developments in the law (2000) The path of civil litigation. Harv L Rev 113:1752–1875CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eisenberg T, Hannaford PL, Heise M, LaFountain N, Ostrom B (2006) Juries, judges, and punitive damages: empirical analyses using the civil justice survey of state courts 1992, 1996, and 2001 data. J Empir Leg Stud 3:263–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Exxon Shipping Co. (2008) Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 US 471Google Scholar
  9. Foote DH (1995) Resolution of traffic accident disputes and judicial activism in Japan. Law Jpn 25:19–39Google Scholar
  10. Gilens M (2002) An anatomy of survey-based experiments. In: Manza J, Cook FL, Page BI (eds) Navigating public opinion: polls, policy, and the future of American democracy. Oxford University, New York, pp 232–250Google Scholar
  11. Greene WH (2011) Econometric analysis, 7th edn. Prentice Hall, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  12. Grimshaw (1981) Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co., No. 19-77-61 (Super. Ct., Orange Cty., Cal., Feb. 7, 1978), aff’d as amended, 119 Cal. App. 3d 757, 174 Cal. Rptr. 348Google Scholar
  13. Haley JO (1978) The myth of the reluctant litigant. J Jpn Stud 4:359–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hamabe Y (2011) Bengoshi ga ooi to nani ga yoi noka—gaishi, gone toku, monsuta ni makenai shakai no tsukurikata [What is the good of increasing lawyers?—how to build a society that can resist foreign firms, foldouts, and complainers]. Toyo Keizai Shinpo Sha, Tokyo (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  15. Harvey AC (1976) Estimating regression models with multiplicative heteroscedasticity. Econometrica 44:461–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Henderson DF (1991) Comparative law in the Japanese courts: punitive damages. Law Jpn 24:98–104Google Scholar
  17. Higuchi N (1988) Seisaiteki isharyo ron ni tsuite—minkei shunbetsu no “riso” to genjitsu [Punitive solatium—“ideal” and reality in the distinction between civil and criminal liability] Jurisuto 911:19–25 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  18. Higuchi N (2014) Amerika huho koi ho [Tort law in the US.], 2nd edn. Kobundo, Tokyo (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  19. Hirai Y (1984) Sekinin no enkakuteki/hikakuhoteki kousatsu—huhokoi sekinin o chushin to shite [Historical and comparative analysis on liability (focusing on tort liability)] In: Ashibe N et al (eds) Iwanami kouza kiso hogaku 5: sekinin [Iwanami lectures on basic law 5: liability]. Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo, pp 3–39Google Scholar
  20. Hooper D, Coughlan J, Mullen MR (2008) Structural equation modelling: guidelines for determining model fit. Electron J Bus Res Methods 6:53–60Google Scholar
  21. Ikeda Y, Mori D (2015) Can decoupling punitive damages deter an injurer’s harmful activity? Rev L Econ 11:513–528Google Scholar
  22. Justice System Reform Council (2001a) Recommendations of the Justice System Reform Council—For a Justice System to Support Japan in the 21st Century, Accessed 1 Sept 2017
  23. Justice System Reform Council (2001b) Proceedings of the 54th Justice System Reform Council, Accessed 1 Sept 2017 (in Japanese)
  24. Kato I (1974) Fuho koi [Torts], enlarged edn. Yuhikaku, Tokyo (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  25. Kawashima T (1963) Dispute resolution in contemporary Japan. In: von Mehren AT (ed) Law in Japan: the legal order in a changing society. Harvard University, Cambridge, pp 41–72Google Scholar
  26. Kawashima T (1967) Nihonjin no ho ishiki [Attitudes of Japanese people toward the law and the legal system] (in Japanese) [English translation of one chapter is Kawashima (1974) The legal consciousness of contract in Japan (trans. Steavens CR) Law Jpn 7:1–21]Google Scholar
  27. Kemezy (1996) Kemezy v. Peters, 79 F.3d 33 (7th Cir. 1996)Google Scholar
  28. Kihara H (2015) Tort law in Japan. Wolters Kluwer Law and Business, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Kobayashi H (2005a) Sabakareru Mitsubishi Jidosha [Mitsubishi Motors that is judged]. Nippon Hyoron Sha, Tokyo (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  30. Kobayashi H (2005b) Mitsubishi Jidosha jiken to seisaiteki isharyo [Mitsubishi Motors case and punitive damages for mental suffering]. Hogaku Seminar 606:107–112 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  31. Kobayashi H (n.d.) Conceal knowledge of recalls at Mitsubishi motors, Accessed 1 Sept 2017
  32. Kubota A (2007) Huho koi [The law of torts]. Yuhikaku, Tokyo (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  33. Kwak N, Radler B (2002) A comparison between mail and web surveys: response pattern, respondent profile, and data quality. J Offic Stat 18:257–273Google Scholar
  34. Logue KD (2010) Coordinating sanctions in tort. Cardozo L Rev 31:2313–2364Google Scholar
  35. Madderra MJ (2014) The new class actions in Japan. Pac Rim L & Pol’y J 23:795–830Google Scholar
  36. Matsumoto T (2015) Gendai no shohisha seisaku ni miru horitsu to shakaiteki sekinin no kankei: shohisha, jigyosha, gyosei no aratana toraianguru no keisei ni mukete [The relationship between law and social responsibility from the point of view of current consumer policy: towards building a new triangle of consumers, business, and governments]. Hosei Kenkyu 81:454–484 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  37. Matsumura Y (1972) Songai baisho ni taisuru ippanjin no taido [Ordinary people’s attitudes toward damages]. Kagaku kisoron kenkyu 11:21–25 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  38. Matsumura Y (1973) Songai baissho ni taisuru hitobito no ishiki [People’s attitudes toward damages]. In: Kawashima T (ed) Hoshakaigaku koza 8: shakai to ho 2 [Lectures on sociology of law 8: society and law 2] Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo, pp 257–271 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  39. Matsumura Y, Kinoshita M, Fujimoto A, Yamada H, Fujita M, Kobayashi C (2007) What are the changes in attitudes of Japanese people toward the law and the legal system? surveyed in 1971, 1976, and 2005. Chiba J Law Polit 22(3):61–112Google Scholar
  40. Miceli TJ (1997) Economics of the law—torts, contracts, litigation. Oxford University, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  41. Mitsubishi Motors case (2006) Mitsubishi Motors case. Yokohama District Court. Hanrei Jiho 1937:123–131 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  42. Morita H, Kozuka S (2008) Huho koi no mokuteki—“songaitenpo” ha shuyo na seidomokuteki ka [The purpose of tort law—is compensation the primary purpose of the system?]. NBL874:10–21 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  43. Navarro D (2015) Learning statistics with R: a tutorial for psychology students and other beginners, version 0.5. Accessed 1 Sept 2017
  44. Northcon I (1997) Northcon I, Oregon Partnership v. Mansei Kogyo Co., Ltd., Supreme Court, Minshu 51(6):2573 (in Japanese) (translated into English in Japanese Ann Int’l L 42:104–107 (1998))Google Scholar
  45. Oda H (2011) Japanese law, 3rd edn. Oxford University, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  46. Osaka E (2009) Reevaluating the role of the tort liability system in Japan. Ariz J Int’l Comp L 26:393–426Google Scholar
  47. Ottley YJ, Ottley BL (1984) Product liability law in Japan: an introduction to a developing area of law. Ga J Int’l Comp L 14:29–59Google Scholar
  48. Owen DG (1982) Problems in assessing punitive damages against manufacturers of defective products. U Chi L Rev 49:1–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Polinsky AM, Che Y-K (1991) Decoupling liability: optimal incentives for care and litigation. RAND J Econ 22:562–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Public Prosecutors Office (2017) For victims of crime. Accessed 1 Sept 2017
  51. Ramseyer JM, Nakazato M (1989) The rational litigant: settlement amounts and verdict rates in Japan. J Legal Stud 18:263–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Restatement (second) of torts (1979) American Law Institute, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  53. Saeki H (2009) Seisai ron [Theory of sanctions]. Yuhikaku, Tokyo (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  54. Sanders SM (2013) Uncle Sam and the partitioning punitive problem: a federal split-recovery statute or a federal tax? Pepp L Rev 40:785–842Google Scholar
  55. Shavell S (1987) Economic analysis of accident law. Harvard University, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. (2003) State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 US 408Google Scholar
  57. Takahashi H (2006) Jiken ruikei, sosho ruikei to riyosha chosa [Types of cases, types of conflicts, and survey on users]. In: Sato I et al. (eds) Riyosha kara mita minji sosho: Sihoseido Kaikaku Shingikai “Minji Sosho Riyosha Chosa” no niji bunseki [Civil litigation from the perspective of users: secondary analysis of the Justice System Reform Council’s “Field Survey on Users of Civil Litigation”], Nippon Hyoron Sha, Tokyo (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  58. Tanaka H, Takeuchi A (1974) The role of private persons in the enforcement of law: a comparative study of Japanese and American law. Law Jpn 7:34–50Google Scholar
  59. Tokoro K, Maeda T (1972) Keiji jiken shori to songai baisho—anketo chosa kekka chukan hokoku [Criminal case proceedings and damages—an interim report of the result of the survey] Jurisuto 499:28–36 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  60. Tokyo Branch of Nichibenren Traffic Accident Consultation Center (2015) Minji kotsu jiko sosho: songai baishogaku santei kijun [Civil traffic accidents litigation: computation standards for damage payments]. Tokyo Branch of Nichibenren Traffic Accident Consultation Center, Tokyo (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  61. Tsunematsu J (2009) Sekinin to shakai: fuho koi sekinin no imi o meguru arasoi [The meaning of tort liability in Japan: a sociological exploration]. Keiso Shobo, Tokyo (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  62. Tsunematsu J (2011) Sekinin to shakai: fuho koi sekinin no imi o meguru arasoi (The meaning of tort liability in Japan: a sociological exploration): a summary by the author. Int’l J Jpn Sociol 20:121–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vandall FJ (2008) The criminalization of products liability: an invitation to political abuse, preemption, and nonenforcement. Cath U L Rev 57:341–375Google Scholar
  64. Weesie J (1998) Sg77: regression analysis with multiplicative heteroscedasticity. Stata Tech Bull 42:28–32Google Scholar
  65. Yoshimura K (2010) Nihon huhokoi ho ni okeru minji seisai ron no rekishi to tenbou—songai baisho ho ni okeru “seisai” no jittai ni chakumoku shite [A history and perspective of civil-sanction theory in Japanese tort law: a focus on the substance of “sanctions” in the law of damages]. Ryukoku Hougaku 43(2):198–293 (in Japanese) Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Japan Section of the Regional Science Association International 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of LawKumamoto UniversityKumamotoJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationMiyagi University of EducationSendaiJapan

Personalised recommendations