The use of the term “non-economic damages” in the “tort reform” movement is thoroughly disingenuous. It’s hard to even imagine what such a loss would be. To an economist, anything that someone values — in the sense of being willing to forgo something else to have it — has “economic value.” If X will pay Y to have Z, or refuse an offer of Y to give up Z, then Z is worth (at least) Y to X, by the only standard that ought to matter.
What’s at stake is the status of non-financial losses. The notion that financial losses are real, while non-financial losses are somehow fictitious, must — unless it is merely special pleading — reflect an astonishingly false sense of values. Under what conceivable theory should the loss of a million-dollar house be fully compensable but the loss of one’s eyesight, for example, be treated as worth only $250,000? Would you give up your eyesight for that sum? Neither would I.