Monday, February 6, 2012
Professor Catherine Sharkey (NYU) has posted to SSRN her article, The Vicissitudes of Tort: A Response to Professors Rabin, Sebok & Zipursky. Here is the abstract:
This response essay probes three themes that tie together three articles submitted for a tort symposium on “The Limits of Predictability and the Value of Uncertainty.” First, I explore the use of unpredictability as a code word for an assault on tort doctrine in response to an out-of-control tort system. In his historical account of the evolution of tort, Professor Rabin focuses on the canonical “no duty” rules of the nineteenth century and the contemporary rules-based limitations on open-textured liability in the twentieth century. But largely missing from this account is the story of rules promoting tort liability, such as strict liability, vicarious liability, negligence per se, and the like. Second, I probe the link between unpredictability and insurance. I argue that Professor Sebok’s efforts to distinguish champerty from illegal gambling and to analogize it to a form of insurance will inevitably fall short of establishing social acceptance or embrace of the practice. Third, I highlight the role of the U.S. Supreme Court and its incursions into the state law domain of tort in the name of predictability. Professor Rabin is doubtful that the U.S. Supreme Court will achieve great strides in its endeavor to quell unpredictability in punitive damages. Professor Zipursky has considerable angst about the Court’s making inroads into privacy and emotional distress torts. Such incursions are in keeping with the Court’s longer-term project of procedural reform of the civil litigation system in the name of unpredictability, but are novel in their ambition to launch frontal attacks.
Fordham Lecture on Third-Party Litigation Funding by Lisa Rickard fo U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform
Lisa Rickard, the President of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, will present the 2012 Noreen E. McNamara Memorial Lecture at Fordham Law School in New York. Her lecture is entitled, The Commercialization of Legal Practice: Legal and Ethical Perils of Third-Party Litigation Funding, and the lecture will take place at 6:00 p.m., February 28, 2012.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
The number of claims languishing on administrative dockets has become a new “crisis” — producing significant backlogs, arbitrary outcomes and new barriers to justice. Coal miners, disabled employees, and wounded soldiers sit on endless waitlists to appeal the same kinds of administrative decisions that frequently result in reversal. Refugees seeking asylum from the same country play a dangerous game of “roulette” before arbitrary decisionmakers. Defrauded consumers and investors miss out on fair compensation, as agencies settle the same claims with wrongdoers without victim participation or meaningful judicial oversight.
Reformers have called for new resources, more administrative law judges and improved attorney fee arrangements. But surprisingly, commentators have largely ignored tools long used by courts to resolve common claims raised by large groups of people: class action and complex litigation procedures. Almost no administrative law process allows groups to aggregate and resolve common claims for relief. As a result, in a wide variety adjudicatory proceedings, administrative agencies routinely (1) waste resources on repetitive cases, (2) reach inconsistent decisions for the same kinds of claims, and (3) deny individuals access to the affordable representation that aggregate procedures otherwise promise. Moreover, procedural and substantive hurdles — including exhaustion of administrative remedies and judicial deference to agency expertise — often prevent federal courts from providing class-wide relief to parties in agency adjudications.
We argue that agencies themselves should adopt aggregation procedures, like those under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to adjudicate common claims raised by large groups of people. After surveying the current tools by which agencies could promote more efficiency, consistency and legal access — including rulemaking, stare decisis, attorneys fees and federal court class actions — we find agency class action rules more effectively resolve common disputes by: (1) efficiently creating ways to pool information about recurring problems and enjoin systemic harms; (2) achieving greater equality in outcomes than individual adjudication; and (3) securing legal and expert assistance at a critical stage in the process. In this way, The Agency Class Action represents a new kind of decision-making for administrative agencies — a blend of adjudication and rulemaking for large groups of people who similarly depend upon the administrative state for relief.
Federal courts have recently required proof of classwide injury to certify a class action for monetary remedies. Proof of classwide injury is defined as proof, which is common to the class, that the defendant's unlawful conduct injured every member of the class. This article argues that the requirement of proof of classwide injury arises from three fallacies about the class action. The first fallacy, the "all at once" fallacy, presumes that all issues in a class action must be determined in one fell swoop. I argue that the class action is not an "all at once" trial device but a trust device that entrusts the claims to class attorney so that he or she can make optimal investments on common issues. Thus, a class action can incorporate multiple trials, or even individualized trials. The second fallacy, the "extraordinary remedy" fallacy, analogizes the class action to extraordinary remedies like the preliminary injunction. Thus, proof of classwide injury is required because it allows a court to determine the plaintiffs' likelihood of success of the merits. However, in litigation involving numerous plaintiffs, the defendant can exploit economies of scale to invest in common issues that the plaintiffs cannot utilize in the absence of the class action. Thus, class certification is required before a merits determination, not after. The third fallacy, the "individualist" fallacy, presumes that individual trials as to each plaintiff's injury are required in the absence of proof of classwide injury to avoid compensating uninjured plaintiffs. I argue that individual trials will not necessarily result in more accuracy, and, more importantly, such accuracy is of secondary importance given the deterrence function of the litigation, which only requires an accurate determination of the defendant's aggregate liability. The article concludes that class certification only requires common questions concerning liability, not common answers as to individual injury. It also suggests factors other jurisdictions should consider in adopting, designing, and implementing similar collective procedures.
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