Friday, March 7, 2014
Jeffrey Pojanowski (Notre Dame) has posted to SSRN Private Law in the Gaps. The abstract provides:
Private law subjects like tort, contract, and property are traditionally taken to be at the core of the common law tradition, yet statutes increasingly intersect with these bodies of doctrine. This Article draws on recent work in private law theory and statutory interpretation to consider afresh what courts should do with private law in statutory gaps. In particular, it focuses on statutes touching on tort law, a field at the leading edge of private law theory.
This Article’s analysis unsettles some conventional wisdom about the intersection of private law and statutes. Many leading tort scholars and jurists embrace a regulatory conception of private law while also advocating courts’ independent judgment in statutory gaps. Much public law theory on statutory interpretation, however, challenges this preference for background law over legislative policy, at least when private law is understood primarily as public regulation. By contrast, the more a court views private law as a coherent practice autonomous from public regulation, the more justification it has to develop that doctrine amid legislative silence. This space for creativity can be most pronounced for statutory formalists like textualists, a counterintuitive implication given the latter approach’s association with judicial restraint.
Finally, the analysis illuminates the larger question of whether private law adjudication and scholarship need an intervention from public law theory in statutory interpretation. If, as much law and scholarship presumes, private law is simply public regulation by adjudicative means, most every question at the junction of private law and legislation concerns statutory interpretation broadly understood. In that case, private law scholars’ indifference about public law scholarship in legislation is difficult to defend. By comparison, private law’s innocence of statutory interpretation theory is more easily justified on noninstrumental assumptions about background doctrine.
The full Missouri House approved a $350K cap in med mal cases yesterday in front of an audience of doctors packing the galleries. The bill now moves on to the Senate. The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch has the story.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Mark Geistfeld (NYU) has posted to SSRN Tort Law in the Age of Statutes. The abstract provides:
The common law of torts is widely considered to be in conflict with the modern regulatory state. Tort law interacts with regulations and their enabling statutes in different ways that are fully addressed by the doctrines of negligence per se, the regulatory compliance defense, and statutory preemption. According to a substantial body of scholarship, these three statutorily related doctrines are a muddle, lacking any coherent theory that adequately accounts for the competing institutional concerns of the federal regulatory and state tort systems. The problem resides in a mistaken focus on statutory purpose. Due to the supremacy of legislative law, a statutory purpose to modify tort law would seem to fully determine the relation between the common law of torts and the regulatory state. This conclusion is mistaken, however, explaining why there has been so much confusion and controversy about the matter. Systematic analysis across the doctrines of negligence per se, the regulatory compliance defense, and implied statutory preemption shows that they are instead unified by a single underlying principle: When a statute or administrative regulation is based on a policy decision that is relevant to the resolution of a tort claim, courts will defer to the non-binding legislative policy determination as a matter of common-law discretion. This immanent principle of common-law deference gives much-needed structure to the three statutorily related doctrines, filling the analytic gap created by the overly narrow inquiry into statutory purpose. The legislative intent to modify tort law certainly matters, but the principle of deference provides the primary means by which courts integrate health and safety legislation into the common law of torts, eliminating the purported conflict between tort law and the modern regulatory state.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Herb Hovenkamp (Iowa) has posted to SSRN Fractured Legal Institutions. The abstract provides:
This article considers a previously unexamined question: How can we improve the legal analysis of conflicts that occur in very small arenas? The conflicts can be of many kinds, including a nuisance dispute between neighbors, an impending collision between two moving vehicles, a joint decision between spouses about whether or on what terms to continue their marriage, or a disagreement between managers and shareholders within a firm.
The prevailing literature typically refers to these small environments as “markets.” Thinking of them as markets, however, averts our attention from larger environments that should be considered but that often do not function well as private markets. For example, efficiency queries typically look at the wealth created (or destroyed) only in the micromarket at hand, treating gains or losses to others only as externalities to the extent that they are not internalized by bargaining or adoption of the appropriate legal rule. Stepping back and looking at a larger arena often permits superior solutions, particularly when extraction from previous commitments is costly.
Focusing on the larger rather the smaller environment can enable an increase in social wealth or welfare but may also require greater State intervention. As the environment becomes larger bargaining works less well. As a result, we may have to abandon the language of markets or constrain its use, particularly when instability (cycling) or behavioral issues are prominent. In these settings the “market” is often little more than a metaphor. One way to think of the problem is as institutional fracture, or the cost of breaking the arenas in which people interact into excessively small pieces.
A comparison of the law and economics of common law nuisance and that of automobile accidents illustrates the differences. The Coasean literature focused on neighbors whose interests were in place and where bargaining was conceivable. As a result, two people sharing a single building in London came to be regarded as the “market” for legal analysis. By contrast, bargaining metaphors completely failed in the law of automobile accidents, where bargaining is a much less promising resolution to conflict problems. This forced the analysis to step back and consider the full arena in which motor vehicles operate rather than individual pairwise conflicts. As a result, outcomes in cases involving traffic disputes are inherently superior to outcomes in cases involving nuisance disputes between neighbors.
The article concludes with a discussion of useful default rules for avoiding or controlling institutional fracture. The theory of private default rules has not done an adequate job of differentiating their use in different institutional settings. A complete theory of private default rules must address three important issues. The first is How should the legal policy maker select a default rule? The second is When should the rule be a “default” and when should it be absolute? Third is What kind of bargaining coalition is needed to reverse the default?
Finally, often it makes sense to “stack” a contractual mechanism, together with appropriate default rules, on top of a regulatory mechanism. For example, an optimal land use policy would use an underdeterrent zoning law, which eliminates more severe conflicts before they occur, but stack on top of this a set of private contract rules for dealing with more narrowly focused and idiosyncratic land use conflicts.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Jill Wieber Lens (Baylor) has posted Warning: A Post-Sale Duty to Warn Targets Small Manufacturers on SSRN. The abstract provides:
The majority of states now obligate manufacturers to warn about dangers of their products that are discoverable after the sale. Commentators and courts have been hesitant about this obligation because of the potential burden it puts on manufacturers — the costs of identifying users and warning them of the danger. The consensus is that only a factually dependent post-sale duty to warn should exist, obligating manufacturers to warn only if a reasonable manufacturer would do so. A reasonable manufacturer, of course, would warn only if the danger to be warned of justifies the costs of the warning.
This Article is the first to identify a massive problem with a factually dependent post-sale duty to warn — that it will most likely result in liability for small manufacturers, but not large manufacturers. This is because the costs of issuing the warning for a small manufacturer will always be smaller than for a large manufacturer. This Article is also the first to argue that a factually dependent post-sale duty to warn is thus inconsistent with the underlying purposes of products liability law and general public policy. Although the factually dependent post-sale duty to warn seemed like a perfect solution to the overburdening problem, it should not be adopted.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Earlier this month, I reported that a $350K med mal cap on non-economic damages was voted out of committee in the Missouri House. The full House has now given the bill preliminary approval; one more positive vote will send it to the Senate. OzarksFirst.com has the story.
Meanwhile, in Kansas, legislation advanced in the Senate that would raise that state's cap on non-economic damages in personal injury cases from $250K to $300K in July, $325K in July 2018, and $350K in July 2022. As part of a compromise, other changes would be implemented, including giving judges discretion to limit testimony from purported experts and allowing juries to consider whether people suing over their injuries have insurance or other forms of compensation. The cap change proposals were spurred by statements from the Kansas Supreme Court that it was troubling the cap had not been adjusted for inflation since its passage in 1988. The San Francisco Chronicle has the story.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
James Henderson (Cornell) & Aaron Twerski (Brooklyn) have posted to SSRN Optional Safety Devices: Delegating Product Design Responsibility to the Market. The abstract provides:
Early in the development of a robust system of products liability law, American courts delegated most of the responsibility for assuring the safety of product designs to the market. Except for designs that failed to perform their intended functions and thus should be said to be dangerously self-defeating, most courts rejected claims that products were legally defective because they could have been designed more safely. As long as the relevant risks were obvious or product sellers supplied adequate warnings of hidden risks, product purchasers, not courts, determined how much design safety was appropriate. And then came the products liability revolution. Spurred by the adoption of strict liability under § 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, courts began in the 1970s to question, and then to reject, the idea that adequately-informed consumers always make sensible decisions regarding product design safety. Thus arrived a new era in American products liability in which courts began independently to review the reasonableness of manufacturers’ product design choices, thereby second-guessing decisions reached in the market. In fairly short order courts abolished the patent danger rule and opened their doors to a broad range of fault-based design defect claims.
Perhaps the most significant exception to the general pattern of courts overriding markets by engaging in broad product design review — a controversial subject upon which this essay focuses — concerns optional safety devices with respect to which purchasers, not courts, often make controlling decisions. The issue of when courts should delegate responsibility for product design safety is complex. What has been lacking to date is a structured approach to this issue. This essay, for the first time, pulls together the various strands of rationale offered by the courts into a coherent approach, concluding with a proposed Restatement section with comments. Work remains to be done in applying the suggested approach to future cases. The authors believe that this essay provides an important starting point for further development.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
I am sorry to report the passing of one of the great empirical legal scholars of our day: Professor Ted Eisenberg (Cornell). Professor Eisenberg, age 66, died on Sunday from a heart attack. From the Cornell statement:
Known as the “grandfather of empirical legal studies,” Eisenberg was a passionate teacher, beloved colleague, and prolific scholar during his 33 years at the Law School.
A legendary figure in the areas of bankruptcy, civil rights, and the death penalty, Eisenberg has used innovative statistical methodology to shed light on such diverse subjects as punitive damages, victim impact evidence, capital juries, bias for and against litigants, and chances of success on appeal. He is the founder of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Eisenberg taught courses on bankruptcy and debtor-creditor law, constitutional law, civil rights, contracts, federal income taxation, and empirical studies of the legal system.
Photo atttribution: Cornell Law School
Monday, February 24, 2014
Friday, February 21, 2014
The Kentucky Senate, on a 23-13 party-line vote, approved a bill requiring med mal complaints to be taken to a panel of experts to determine whether there was a violation of the standard of care prior to being litigated in court. The panel's finding would be admissible in the trial unless new substantial evidence were discovered after the report. Previous iterations of this proposal have failed in the Kentucky House. Many jurisdictions have similar laws. The Courier-Journal has the details.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Have you heard of the Law & Economics Center Workshops for Law Professors? These four-day workshops are held throughout the year, throughout the country (with an emphasis on great locales to visit, such as the Florida Keys; Steamboat Springs, CO; and Palo Alto, CA), and are designed to foster a better understanding of law & economics.
I recently attended the LEC Workshop on Risk, Injury, Liability & Insurance held January 30th to February 2nd at Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key in Florida. Lodging and most meals were covered by the LEC. Many of the participants were alumni of other LEC workshops and thus knowledgeable about basic law and economics principles, though a handful (including myself) had only engaged peripherally in the topic. Faculty presenters were Henry Butler, Executive Director of the LEC; Jonathan Klick (Penn), and Eric Helland (Claremont McKenna).
Broadly speaking, the goal of these workshops is to introduce the participants to law and economics thinking on the particular topic. Our workshop focused on the economics of uncertainty and risk, and how that translated to legal concepts in insurance and tort law. Despite the variety in background knowledge levels among participants, the teaching was very accessible and at the same time sophisticated and engaging. Discussions focused on problems of adverse selection, moral hazard, and external costs. I definitely gained a better understanding of the economics of risk, and I benefited tremendously from both the assigned readings (voluminous but thoughtfully selected), and instruction.
The Law & Economics Center deserves its outstanding reputation. I highly recommend the LEC Workshops to anyone with a passing interest in law and economics.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Last April at Widener, we hosted a symposium entitled "Perspectives on Mass Tort Litigation." The first of two issues of articles from the Widener Law Journal is now available. It's a terrific lineup:
Christopher J. Robinette, Introduction Download Robinette_V23I1
Victor E. Schwartz & Mark A. Behrens, Asbestos Litigation: The "Endless Search for a Solvent Bystander" Download Behrens&Schwartz_V23I1
Eduardo C. Robreno, The Federal Asbestos Products Liability Multidistrict Litigation (MDL-875): Black Hole or New Paradigm? Download Robreno_V23I1
Byron G. Stier, The Sale and Settlement of Mass Tort Claims: Alternative Litigation Finance and a Possible Future of Mass Tort Resolution Download Stier_V23I1
Thurbert Baker, Paying to Play: Inside the Ethics and Implications of Third-Party Litigation Financing Download Baker_V23I1
Sheila B. Scheuerman, Mass Tort Ethics: What Can We Learn from the Case Against Stanley Chesley? Download Scheuerman_V23I1
Nicholas P. Vari & Michael J. Ross, In a League of Its Own: Restoring Pennsylvania Product Liability Law to the Prevailing Modern "Attitude" of Tort Law Download Vari&Ross_V23I1
S. Todd Brown, Bankruptcy Trusts, Transparency, and the Future of Asbestos Compensation Download Brown_V23I1
Monday, February 17, 2014
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Assessment Across The Curriculum
Institute for Law Teaching and Learning
Spring Conference 2014
Saturday, April 5, 2014
“Assessment Across the Curriculum” is a one-day conference for new and experienced law teachers who are interested in designing and implementing effective techniques for assessing student learning. The conference will take place on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Conference Content: Sessions will address topics such as
Formative Assessment in Large Classes
Classroom Assessment Techniques
Using Rubrics for Formative and Summative Assessment
Assessing the Ineffable: Professionalism, Judgment, and Teamwork
Assessment Techniques for Statutory or Transactional Courses
By the end of the conference, participants will have concrete ideas and assessment practices to take back to their students, colleagues, and institutions.
Who Should Attend: This conference is for all law faculty (full-time and adjunct) who want to learn about best practices for course-level assessment of student learning.
Conference Structure: The conference opens with an optional informal gathering on Friday evening, April 4. The conference will officially start with an opening session on Saturday, April 5, followed by a series of workshops. Breaks are scheduled with adequate time to provide participants with opportunities to discuss ideas from the conference. The conference ends at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Details about the conference are available on the websites of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning (www.lawteaching.org) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law (ualr.edu/law).
Conference Faculty: Conference workshops will be taught by experienced faculty, including Michael Hunter Schwartz (UALR Bowen), Rory Bahadur (Washburn), Sandra Simpson (Gonzaga), Sophie Sparrow (University of New Hampshire), Lyn Entrikin (UALR Bowen), and Richard Neumann (Hofstra).
Accommodations: A block of hotel rooms for conference participants has been reserved at The DoubleTree Little Rock, 424 West Markham Street, Little Rock, AR 72201. Reservations may be made by calling the hotel directly at 501-372-4371, calling the DoubleTree Central Reservations System at 800-222-TREE, or booking online at www.doubletreelr.com. The group code to use when making reservations for the conference is “LAW.”
Friday, February 14, 2014
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's 2015 state budget includes a section on "Helping Keep Doctors in Iowa." Among the ideas he proposes is a cap on non-economic medical malpractice awards. The Des Moines Register responded with an editorial (via The Pop Tort) in opposition that cited a study by the University of Iowa's Carver School of Medicine. The school surveyed all doctors leaving Iowa in 2007 and 2008. Of the 220 who responded, only one cited liability exposure as the most important reason for leaving. As The Pop Tort points out, this finding is consistent with empirical work by Bernard Black, Charles Silver, and David Hyman. Caps will not significantly affect physician supply and they have a disparate impact on the most seriously injured. Iowa should proceed by other means.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
A new article in Albany Law Review addresses a growing issue of personal responsibility: the use of cell phones as a causal factor in accidents. In Don't Text, Talk and Walk: The Emerging Smartphone Defense in Personal Injury Litigation, Robert Lang explores recent case law where the plaintiff and/or defendant was distracted on a cell phone at the time of an accident.
Some possible exam material in this one!
Monday, February 10, 2014
From James Lee (Birmingham):
I write to invite proposals for papers for the Torts subject section meeting of the 2014 Society of Legal Scholars Annual Conference. This year's conference will take place from Tuesday 9th to Friday 12th September 2014 at the University of Nottingham, with Professor Stephen Bailey as President.Torts subject section meeting of the 2014 Society of Legal Scholars Annual Conference. This year's conference will take place from Tuesday 9th to Friday 12th September 2014 at the University of Nottingham, with Professor Stephen Bailey as President.
The overall theme of the Conference is ‘Judging in the 21st Century’. I anticipate that it will be likely that Tort papers will be able to engage readily with this topic, whether focusing on decisions of the highest courts in relevant jurisdictions or on work at first instance, for example. Beyond the theme, proposals on any aspect of the law of tort would be very welcome. The Torts section will take place in the second half of the Conference: please note that it has changed from the first half last year, so will run on Thursday 11th and Friday 12th.
All members of the section, whether research students, early career academics or more senior colleagues are invited to offer papers. We are pleased to have had a range of colleagues presenting high quality papers in recent years, notably from many ODGers. If you are interested in presenting a paper, please e-mail me at email@example.com with a title and a brief abstract. I am happy to discuss any potential submissions informally. Please also tell me if you are proposing a paper for another section, so that I can coordinate arrangements with my fellow convenors. The deadline for proposals is 12pm UK time on Friday 7th March 2014.
Proposers will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible after the deadline. All those who have papers accepted will be required to post a final abstract to the conference paperbank by the end of July.
Convenors have been asked to make it clear to all potential speakers and poster presenters that all speakers, presenters and delegates (and convenors) are required to book and to pay to attend the conference. Booking information will be circulated later in the year.