Casten, Booker, Gillibrand, and Kennedy Introduce Legislation Banning Inequitable Calculations of Civil Damages

September 23, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Sean Casten (IL-06), along with U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), as well as, U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy III (MA-04), introduced legislation that prohibits the consideration of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or actual or perceived sexual orientation when calculating damages in civil lawsuits. The Fair Calculations in Civil Damages Act prevents courts from determining that the victim of a crime should be awarded less in damages on the basis of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or actual or perceived sexual orientation. The bill outlaws discriminatory damage calculations in federal courts and helps to make the legal system more just and equal.

Concerning studies and news reports have shown that state and federal courtrooms across the country consider race, ethnicity, and gender when calculating damages. According to the reports, courts often award women and people of color significantly less than white men even in comparable civil cases. In these instances, a person of color may, for example, be presumed to have less lifetime earning potential than a similarly situated white counterpart, leading to a low and unfair appraisal of damages.

Casten said, “It is a grave injustice that a woman in the United States earns 80 cents on a man’s dollar, and people of color earn even less. Our courts cannot continue to declare that some Americans’ lives are worth less based on statistics born of racism and sexism. I’m proud to join Senators Booker and Gillibrand, along with Congressman Kennedy in introducing the Fair Calculations Act. All Americans deserve justice in our civil courts, and this bill takes a major step in the right direction.”

“Federal courts promise to provide equal justice under law, but in practice, women and minorities are often assigned a monetary value that is less than white men,” Booker said. “There’s nothing equal about that. The law should not value one identity over another, and the Fair Calculations in Civil Damages Act seeks to uphold this principle by ensuring that race, ethnicity, and gender are not used to withhold compensation form victims of civil comers.”

“We need a legal system that is fair, professional, and lives up to the principle that all are created equal. But discriminatory practices have stopped far too many from getting the justice they deserve,” Gillibrand said. “The Fair Calculations in Civil Damages Act would help make our federal court system more just by ensuring that victims of crimes are given the appropriate compensation, no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. I am proud to introduce this legislation in the Senate with Senator Booker, and I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this bill.”

“Devaluing a life based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation is institutional bias in its purest form,” Kennedy said. “Anyone seeking justice in our courtrooms should not be met with the stubborn injustice of a system that has failed to reckon with its earliest sins of segregation and legalized discrimination. Through the Fair Calculations Act, we can begin to weed out the systemic inequities that too often manifest in our justice system.”