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Deep pocket as a slang term

Deep pocket is an American slang term; it usually means "extensive financial wealth or resources". It is usually used in reference to big companies or organizations (ex: the American tobacco companies have "deep pockets"), although it can be used in reference to individuals (e.g., Bill Gates, Donald Trump).

In the context of a lawsuit, the deep pocket is often the target defendant, even when the true (moral) culpability is with another party because the deep pocket has money to pay a verdict. For example, a lawyer may comment that he or she sued the manufacturer of a product rather than the seller because it is the deep pocket, meaning it has more money than the seller with which to compensate the victim.

Deep pocket as a slang term

The term “deep pockets” (also given as “deep pocket” and “deep pocketed") is attested sparsely in the 1940s through the 1960s, but became popular with the litigation explosion of the 1970s.

A person with “short arms” and “deep pockets” is a person (sometimes derided as “miserly” or “cheap") who saves money and doesn’t often spend it. The term “short arms and deep/long pockets” is cited in print from at least 1952. In Eire[Ireland].This phrase was attached to a wealthy business man from Tipparary.This was also called the[O'Shea Fiddle].Who upon his round of drinks would break his glass on the floor,knowing the owner of the pub to ask him to leave.

Deep pocket in law and economics

Deep pocket is a concept often used in the law and economics of tort law. It refers to the idea that the risk of an activity should be borne by a person that is in a relatively good position to handle it. This can be achieved by either spreading the risk over a large number of risk-bearers (usually by means of insurance), or by imposing it on a person that is relatively risk-neutral. The latter is often assumed to be the case for wealthy individuals or large corporations, who are referred to as having "deep pockets", since their wealth will not be affected very strongly if the risk materializes. For example, a deep pocket argument might, among other arguments, be used to justify product liability, as producers with "deep pockets" will normally be better able to accommodate the risk of damages than individual consumers not endowed with "deep pockets".


  • Guido Calabresi: The Cost of Accidents: A Legal and Economic Analysis, Yale University Press, 1970.

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