A few days before the jury’s verdict in the recent Johnny Depp–Amber Heard defamation trial you might have heard about, our firm received a favorable decision from a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation judge in a case you surely didn’t hear about. In that case, the judge granted our penalty petition—the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act’s equivalent of punitive damages—and awarded our client almost $60,000.

A $60,000 recovery in a client’s case may not seem significant to many. But in the workers’ compensation realm, a $60,000 penalty award is nothing to sneeze at. The penalty award, along with the ubiquitous “golden arches” of McDonald’s that dot our landscape, and the $5 million in punitive damages awarded by the Depp–Heard jury to Depp, got me thinking about the role of punitive damages and other legal penalties. Far too often today, they fail to have the deterrent effect they were designed to have.

Penalties Can’t Deter Bad Behavior if They’re Not Levied by Fact Finders