Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Guido Calabresi (Yale, Second Circuit) has posted to SSRN A Broader View of the Cathedral: The Significance of the Liability Rule, Correcting a Misapprehension. The abstract provides:
Recent years have seen a resurgence of Torts viewed as a purely private legal arrangement: whether described in terms of compensatory justice — the right of an injured party to be made whole — or of redress for civil wrongs — the right of an injured person to get back at the one who injured him. These positions reject the approach of the system builders (to use Izhak Englard’s felicitous phrase), those who see torts as part of a legal-political-economic structure of a polity. This latter, “public,” view of torts has been dominant, at least since my first article, and Walter J. Blum and Harry Kalven’s answer to it, aptly titled "Public Law Perspectives on a Private Law Problem." It is of the relationship between these approaches, and of the inevitability of the public-law (and hence, in part, economic) view of torts that I wish to write today. In doing so, however, I mainly want to correct an error that many system builders have made: that is, of viewing the liability rule (in torts and in its cognates) as a “second best” way of mimicking markets when markets “will not work,” or “are not available.” I want to claim a more significant economic role for the liability rule, and hence for torts, than that. For reasons that will be clear in due course, I call this "A Broader View of the Cathedral."
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Alex Long (Tennessee) has posted to SSRN The Forgotten Role of Consent in Defamation and Employment Reference Cases. The abstract provides:
As has been well documented, the fear of defamation suits and related claims leads many employers to refuse to provide meaningful employment references. However, an employer who provides a negative reference concerning an employee enjoys a privilege in an ensuing defamation action if the employee has consented to the release of information concerning the employee’s job performance. Thus, many attorneys now advise prospective employers to have applicants sign consent agreements, permitting the prospective employer to conduct an investigation into the applicant’s work history and releasing from liability anyone who provides information about the employee’s work history. The Restatement (Second) of Torts has been highly influential in shaping the development of the defense of consent in the defamation context. This article looks at the consent defense within the context of employment reference cases. Specifically, the article examines the consent defense as described in the Restatement from an historical perspective and argues that the authors fundamentally misstated the law in a manner that has had negative consequence for employees who have been the victims of defamatory references.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Catherine Harris (Wake Forest-Sociology) & Ralph Peeples (Wake Forest) have posted to SSRN Medical Errors, Medical Malpractice and Death Cases in North Carolina: The Impact of Demographic and System Variables. The abstract provides:
A Study of hospitals in North Carolina from January 2002 to December 2007 reports that there was no statistically significant decrease in medical errors during this period, in spite of efforts to reduce them (Landrigan et al. 2010). Our study utilizes a medical liability insurer's archive of death cases in North Carolina from 2002 to 2009 (156 cases involving 401 physician-defendants. Given the implications of medical error for health care delivery, we consider whether demographic variables (age, gender, marital status and race) and system variables (hospital involvement and number of physician-defendants) are predictive of higher risk of death. Our dependent variables are three major categories of error associated with patient death in the archive (diagnostic, treatment and surgical. We find that men are significantly more at risk for diagnostic errors. There is evidence that age and number of defendants is predictive of treatment errors. Policy implications are discussed.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Avi Dorfman (Tel Aviv) & Assaf Jacob (The Interdisciplinary Center Radziner School of Law) have posted to SSRN Trespass Revisited: Against the Keep-Off Theory of Property and for Owner-Responsibility. The abstract provides:
The conventional wisdom has it that a property owner assumes virtually no responsibility for guiding others in fulfilling their duties not to trespass on the former's property. In other words, the entire risk of making an unauthorized use of the property in question rests upon the duty-holders. This view is best captured by the Keep-Off picture of property, according to which the content of the duty in question is that of excluding oneself from a thing that is not one's own. In this article, we argue that this view is mistaken. We advance conceptual, normative, and doctrinal arguments to show that this account runs afoul of the actual workings of the tort in question. A more precise account of trespass to land will reveal that the tort gives rise to a hybrid regime of tort liability: one which combines considerations of fault along with those of strict liability. On the proposed account, therefore, an owner does assume some responsibility for guiding others in fulfilling the duty they owe the former.
Friday, August 8, 2014
Thursday, August 7, 2014
The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and the Food and Drug Law Institute have announced a joint symposium on "Emerging Issues and New Frontiers for FDA Regulation," to be held on October 20, 2014, in Washington. Topics include food regulation, drug shortages, stem cells, and synthetic biology.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
In a pleading seeking a lead counsel role in the MDL, Joe Rice revealed that the City of Providence, RI intends to sue General Motors as part of the ignition-switch litigation coordinated in the Southern District of New York. From news reports, it sounds like Providence intends to bring a diminished value claim, similar to claims brought against Toyota a few years ago. (I've written about these kinds of risk-liability suits here).
National Law Journal has the story.
Monday, August 4, 2014
Michael Frakes (Northwestern), Matthew Frank (Harvard student), & Seth Seabury (RAND) have posted to SSRN Do Physicians Respond to Liability Standards?. The abstract provides:
In this paper, we explore the sensitivity in the clinical decisions of physicians to the standards of care expected of them under the law, drawing on the abandonment by states over time of rules holding physicians to standards determined by local customs and the contemporaneous adoption of national-standard rules. Using data on broad rates of surgical interventions at the county-by-year level from the Area Resource File, we find that local surgery rates converge towards national surgery rates upon the adoption of national-standard rules. Moreover, we find that these effects are more pronounced among rural counties.
Friday, August 1, 2014
As previously mentioned here, crews have begun working on Ralph Nader's American Musuem of Tort Law. Just this week, the Winsted Planning and Zoning Commission approved the site application plan for the musuem. The Register Citizen reports:
Exhibits will include historical cases of precedent that built the “edifice of common law of torts,” along with major cases, including judicial decisions in auto safety, tobacco, asbestos and invasion of privacy. Plans were in the works for a website to be set up as well, to extend the reach of the museum’s mission to include contemporary and future developments, according to Nader. The museum could also host events.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Most TortsProfs probably don't cover the common law right of publicity, but if you do, here's a good one to use in class: General Manuel Noriega (yes that one) has sued manufacturers of the video game "Black Ops II" for misappropriating his likeness in said video. According to the complaint, Noriega's portyal in the video as "as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state" has damaged his reputation.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Of interest to TortsProfs is Evidence Matters: Science, Proof and Truth in the Law by Susan Haack (Miami), recently published by Cambridge University Press. The abstract provides:
Is truth in the law just plain truth – or something sui generis? Is a trial a search for truth? Do adversarial procedures and exclusionary rules of evidence enable, or impede, the accurate determination of factual issues? Can degrees of proof be identified with mathematical probabilities? What role can statistical evidence properly play? How can courts best handle the scientific testimony on which cases sometimes turn? How are they to distinguish reliable scientific testimony from unreliable hokum? The dozen interdisciplinary essays collected here explore a whole nexus of such questions about science, proof, and truth in the law. With her characteristic clarity and verve, in these essays Haack brings her original and distinctive work in theory of knowledge and philosophy of science to bear on real-life legal issues. She includes detailed analyses of a wide variety of cases and lucid summaries of relevant scientific work, of the many roles of the scientific peer-review system, and of relevant legal developments.
Hat tip Richard Wright.
John Oberdiek (Rutgers-Camden) has posted to SSRN Putting (and Keeping) Proximate Cause in Its Place. The abstract provides:
Before one can recover for an injury sounding in negligence, one must establish that the defendant more likely than not proximately caused the injury. That the positive law of negligence imposes this requirement is beyond controversy. What is more controversial is whether the requirement is conceptually and morally defensible. Michael Moore, singly as well as in tandem with Heidi Hurd, powerfully argues that it is neither. Specifically, Moore contends that the harm-within-the-risk test of proximate causation, despite its venerable history in tort law and reaffirmation in the latest Restatement, is “incoherent” and “morally undesirable.” It is bad enough, on Moore’s view, that negligence law bifurcates its causal inquiry, distinguishing as it does the question of actual causation from that of proximate causation, rather than pursuing a unified naturalistic inquiry into the substantiality of causal contribution. What is worse is that tort law can’t even get its own misguided causal inquiry half-right.
I do not share Moore’s jaundiced view of the harm-within-the-risk test of proximate cause – what I will call the “risk rule” for short. I begin by questioning his understanding of the risk rule as it figures in tort law, and go on to argue that neither his conceptual nor his moral criticism of the risk rule is decisive. In the course of rebutting Moore’s criticisms, I outline what I take to be the most compelling account of the risk rule in the law of torts. What emerges is a conception of proximate cause that is thoroughly moralized. Of course moral premises must be invoked to defend the risk rule’s moral merit, but, I argue, they must also be invoked to defend its conceptual coherence. In my view, the risk rule is both morally and conceptually sound.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Martha Chamallas (Ohio State) has posted to SSRN Two Very Different Stories: Vicarious Liability Under Tort and Title VII Law. The abstract provides:
Without much analysis, the U.S. Supreme Court has imported common law agency and tort principles to resolve issues of employer vicarious liability under Title VII. The story that emerges from the recent Title VII case law is one of similarity and continuity: the main theme is that Title VII is a statutory tort, making it seem appropriate to rely on longstanding common law agency principles to determine employer responsibility for the wrongful acts of their employees.
This article contests the prevailing narrative, arguing that it significantly downplays major differences in the structure and history of tort and Title VII claims. Borrowing from tort law is misguided because vicarious liability principles were never meant to govern claims by employees against their own employers. Instead, at common law, the infamous “fellow servant rule” insulated employers from tort liability in such suits, with vicarious liability coming into play only when injured third parties sought recovery. Unlike the dual liability scheme of tort law – which holds both the employer and the offending employee liable – Title VII claims may be brought only against the employer. The enterprise liability scheme of Title VII thus bears little resemblance to the prototypical vicarious liability structure in tort law.
The Supreme Court’s approach has lost sight of historical workers’ rights struggles which led to the enactment of comprehensive workers’ compensation statutes. By recasting Title VII as the second major intervention into the employer/employee relationship, this article tells a very different story – one of contrast and change – that would free Title VII vicarious liability doctrine from the strictures of the common law.
Friday, July 25, 2014
I posted last February about my experience at the George Mason Law & Economic Center Workshop on Risk, Injury, Liability & Insurance. In a word: fantastic.
If any of the upcoming LEC Workshop topics strike your fancy, my advice is GO! (especially to Duck Key!).
LEC WORKSHOP FOR LAW PROFESSORS ON AUSTRIAN LAW AND ECONOMICS
Wednesday, October 1 - Friday, October 3, 2014
George Mason University School of Law, Arlington, VA
Confirmed speakers include: Peter J. Boettke (George Mason University), Christopher J. Coyne (George Mason University), Israel Kirzner (New York University), Peter Leeson (George Mason University), Ragan Petrie (George Mason University), Edmund Phelps (2006 Nobel Laureate, Columbia University), Vernon Smith, (2002 Nobel Laureate, Chapman University), Oliver Williamson, (2009 Nobel Laureate, University of California at Berkeley), and Todd J. Zywicki (George Mason University School of Law).
LEC-PERC WORKSHOP FOR LAW PROFESSORS ON ENVIRONMENTAL ECONOMICS
Saturday, December 6 - Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key, FL
Confirmed speakers include: Jonathan H. Adler (Case Western Reserve University School of Law), Terry L. Anderson (Property and Environment Research Center), Henry N. Butler (George Mason University School of Law), and Dean Lueck (University of Arizona).
LEC WORKSHOP FOR LAW PROFESSORS ON THE ECONOMICS OF LITIGATION AND CIVIL PROCEDURE
Thursday, January 29 - Sunday, February 1, 2015
Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key, FL
Confirmed speakers include: Robert G. Bone (University of Texas at Austin School of Law), Jonah B. Gelbach (University of Pennsylvania Law School), and Bruce H. Kobayashi (George Mason University School of Law).
TERMS AND CONDITIONS APPLICABLE TO ALL THREE WORKSHOPS:
1. NO TUITION
2. ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION: Attendees are required to attend all sessions and group meals. Attendees are expected to be prepared and to actively participate in the discussions.
3. HOTEL ROOMS: The LEC makes reservations and pays for rooms via direct bill.
4. MEALS: The LEC provides group meals and breaks for all attendees.
5. TRANSPORTATION: Attendees are responsible for making their own transportation arrangements.
6. DEPOSIT: For each workshop, accepted applicants must make a $500 deposit bonding their attendance within 30 days of acceptance. For each workshop, the deposit is refunded within 30 days after successful completion of the workshop.
7. APPLICATION PROCEDURE: Please use the link below to apply: http://www.cvent.com/Surveys/Welcome.aspx?s=921dfb49-5ceb-44bd-87df-bd63d4acc371
8. ACCEPTANCE: The LEC will begin evaluating applications as they are received.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: For more information regarding these conferences or other initiatives of the Law & Economics Center, please visit: http://www.MasonLEC.org
You may also call or send an email to Jeff Smith, Coordinator, Henry G. Manne Program in Law & Economics Studies, at 703.993.8382 or jsmithQ@gmu.edu
Thursday, July 24, 2014
The distinction between physical and emotional harm is fundamental. Legal disciplines from torts to constitutional law rely on the hierarchy that places bodily integrity over emotional tranquility. This hierarchy is now under attack by modern scientists and scholars. Neuroscientists have undermined the view that emotional harm is more subjective; social scientists have refuted the position that emotional harm is less impactful; and feminist scholars have undercut the view that these categories are gender neutral. Courts are taking notice, especially in tort law. Each new Restatement of Torts provides more avenues for plaintiffs to collect damages for emotional injuries.
This Article defends the relevance of the distinction between physical and emotional harm, especially in tort law, by offering theoretical justifications that are responsive to the modern criticisms. A new conception of the distinction should be based on a duty to reasonably regulate one’s own emotional health. This duty fits well within tort theories including law and economics, corrective justice, and civil recourse theory, and harmonizes with criminal law and First Amendment doctrines. Further, neuroscience, social science, and even feminist theory support this duty. A duty to maintain one’s own emotional well being can benefit both potential tort plaintiffs and defendants by incorporating normative ideals about identity, consent, autonomy, social justice, and social welfare. In advancing this emotional duty, this Article also provides sustainable definitions for physical and emotional harm that can survive changing technology and discusses the implications of a new understanding of the physical/emotional hierarchy for tort law.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Here's a good one for your class on negligence:
A California appellate court has held that a man who fell off a cliff while drunk can sue the friends who brought him to the cliff to watch the sunrise after a night of partying. The court found that the plaintiff "created a triable issue of material fact as to whether [the defendant] breached a duty owed to [the plaintiff] by bringing him to the cliff side when she knew he was intoxicated and waiting several hours to call 911 or otherwise summon aid after the fall."
Courthouse News has more.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
On Monday in my home county, a jury returned a defense verdict in the tragic case of a man who became a quadriplegic in a sprint-car racing accident at the Williams Grove Speedway on September 5, 2008. The plaintiff argued the speedway should have had a device (a catch fence) in place that would have greatly reduced the likelihood of injuries. In addition to denying that allegation, the speedway presented a waiver supposedly signed by the plaintiff. (Like many jurisdictions, Pennsylvania upholds the express assumption of risk doctrine in the recreational context.) Plaintiff argued that the date and witness lines of the waiver form were not filled in and the waiver was, thus, invalid. The jury deliberated 3 hours before determining the waiver was valid and, therefore, reaching a defense verdict. The Patriot-News has details.
Riaz Tejani (University of Illinois Springfield-Department of Legal Studies) has posted to SSRN National Geographics: Toward a 'Federalism Function' of American Tort Law. The abstract provides:
This Article defends current contours in the federalization of tort law wherein norms have been federalized in discrete substantive areas although remaining shielded from federal incursion in others. As suggested here, it becomes the task of judges to develop and refine these contours in the same fashion that they serve public law needs elsewhere through adjudication. In support of this claim, this Article develops what I term the “federalism function” — the capacity for torts disputes to implicate the balance of federal and state authority and thereby reinforce or recalibrate that balance in large or small measure. Indeed, as problems of scale cut increasingly across political persuasion and economic worldview, the balance of central and local power through federalism becomes a key implication of many torts disputes today. This discussion is overdue in light of wider debates about federal preemption and state sovereignty. Immigration reform and marijuana regulation are but two hot-button issues that illustrate the contemporary struggle over federalism. More than tort law, these areas implicate what many have come to describe as “global governance” — the effort to assert uniform norms across ever-wider geographic and political distances. Because immigration and marijuana policies necessarily affect the flow of people and things across the international border, they more understandably implicate and undermine the idea of states’ rights. Tort law, meanwhile, still deals in cognizable, individual harms to person and property and has been the domain of state authority for centuries. Nevertheless, tortious conduct increasingly flows across state boundaries via mass-market actors and increased communication technologies. Adjudication in tort disputes increasingly takes the form of “public” or “regulatory” law. It is then, in light of federalism’s widespread influence in policy discussions across the spectrum, not surprising to find the integrity of state common law up for reconsideration in many tort cases. This reconsideration forms the federalism function.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Like many, we were stunned to learn of the death of Dan Markel over the weekend. Dan, a professor at Florida State College of Law, was a co-founder of PrawfsBlawg and a prolific scholar in the area of punishment and retributive justice. The local ABC News station reports that Dan was shot at his home on Friday and passed away the following day at an area hospital.
PrawfsBlawg has an on-line memorial for their colleague and friend here.
Paul Caron has collected the news reports on this tragedy here.
- Sheila and Chris