Wednesday, December 21, 2016
The editorial board of The Columbus Dispatch has weighed in on the noneconomic damages cap upheld last week by the Ohio Supreme Court. It urges the General Assembly to amend the law next session to enact an exclusion for sexual-assault victims. It's a sound idea. Even if you support caps on noneconomic damages, caps that cover intentional acts are very rare.
Monday, December 19, 2016
The Supreme Court of Ohio has ruled, again, that a cap on noneconomic damages is constitutional. The suit involved a 15-year-old girl who was raped by her senior pastor during a counseling session in his office. The girl and her father sued the pastor and several other defendants and obtained a $3.6M verdict. After the cap was applied, the judgment was trimmed to $500,000. Marianna Brown Bettman (Emeritus, Cincinnati) has a detailed post at her blog, "Legally Speaking Ohio".
Friday, December 16, 2016
Eli Ball has published Enrichment at the Claimant's Expense with Hart Publishing. The blurb provides:
This book presents an account of attribution in unjust enrichment. Attribution refers to how and when two parties – a claimant and a defendant – are relevantly connected to each other for unjust enrichment purposes. It is reflected in the familiar expression that a defendant be 'enriched at the claimant's expense'. This book presents a structured account of attribution, consisting of two requirements: first, the identification of an enrichment to the defendant and a loss to the claimant; and, secondly, the identification of a connection between that enrichment and that loss. These two requirements must be kept separate from other considerations often subsumed within the expression 'enrichment at the claimant's expense' which in truth have nothing to do with attribution, and which instead qualify unjust enrichment liability for reasons that should be analysed in their own terms. The structure of attribution so presented fits a normative account of unjust enrichment based upon each party's exchange capacities. A defendant is enriched when he receives something that he has not paid for under prevailing market conditions, while a claimant suffers a loss when he loses the opportunity to charge for something under the same conditions. A counterfactual test – asking whether enrichment and loss arise 'but for' each other – provides the best generalisation for testing whether enrichment and loss are connected, thereby satisfying the requirements of attribution in unjust enrichment.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Sean Woods, the basketball coach at Morehead State, has been accused of battering two players during a game last month. One player said the coach backhanded him in the chest in the locker room at halftime and another player said the coach shoved him during a timeout and in the locker room. Woods has been suspended, and criminal battery charges have been filed. The Lexington Herald Leader has the story. Thanks to David Raeker-Jordan for the tip.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Peter Hayes, of Bloomberg BNA, has a piece on the potential for a new wave of tort suits based on nanotechnology (essentially the technology of really small things). Nanotechnology can be used to make almost anything, but there have been concerns about health side effects. Hayes notes many experts predicted such a wave a decade ago, and inquires of several experts whether the predictions were wrong or whether the wave is still coming. His piece, "Nanotech Tort Litigation: Potential Sleeping Giant", is here.
Agnieszka McPeak (Toledo) has posted to SSRN Sharing Tort Liability in the New Sharing Economy. The abstract provides:
The new sharing economy is forcing policymakers to reexamine current legal structures for several highly regulated industries, including taxi services. But in addition to regulation, tort law’s ability to adapt to the new sharing economy is an equally important concern, and one that few scholars have examined to date.
Although many sharing-economy companies, like ridesharing service Uber, merely purport to connect individuals to each other for the purposes of exchanging specific services, many of these companies are monetized, for-profit businesses that exert some level of control over the underlying commercial transaction. When an individual service provider, like an Uber driver, commits a tort, the victim may be under-compensated if that individual provider alone is liable. Holding the sharing-economy company vicariously liable may be appropriate for ensuring fairness for tort victims.
Fortunately, pre-existing tort principles — particularly vicarious liability concepts of respondeat superior, liability for independent contractors, and joint enterprise liability — already provide the framework for applying retrospective common law remedies in the sharing-economy context. Even though sharing-economy companies challenge the status quo with their innovative and non-traditional business approaches, pre-existing principles suffice to clarify tort liability in this new context. By liberally using the basic analysis and underlying policy rationales of existing vicarious liability concepts in particular, courts can ensure fairness under modern tort law, and policymakers can proceed with a holistic understanding of how retrospective remedies are well-poised to address some of the unique issues raised by the new sharing economy.
She's also blogging at Prawfs.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Benjamin McMichael, Lawrence Van Horn, and Kip Viscusi (all Vanderbilt) have posted to SSRN Sorry is Never Enough: The Effect of State Apology Laws on Medical Malpractice Liability Risk. The abstract provides:
State apology laws offer a separate avenue from traditional damages-centric tort reforms to promote communication between physicians and patients and to address potential medical malpractice liability. These laws facilitate apologies from physicians by excluding statements of apology from malpractice trials. Using a unique dataset that includes all malpractice claims for 90% of physicians practicing in a single specialty across the country, this study examines whether apology laws limit malpractice risk. For physicians who do not regularly perform surgery, apology laws increase the probability of facing a lawsuit and increase the average payment made to resolve a claim. For surgeons, apology laws do not have a substantial effect on the probability of facing a claim or the average payment made to resolve a claim. Overall, the evidence suggests that apology laws do not effectively limit medical malpractice liability risk.
Monday, December 12, 2016
Greg Keating has uploaded to SSRN to SSRN 6 p apers:
Friday, December 9, 2016
On NPR's All Things Considered, Audie Cornish discussed the recent increase in fake news and possible recourse for it with Derigan Silver, professor of media, First Amendment, and Internet Law at the University of Denver. NPR's website has the story.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Ryan Abbott (Surrey Law/UCLA Med) has posted to SSRN Allocating Liability for Computer-Generated Torts. The abstract provides:
Artificial intelligence is part of our daily lives. Whether working as taxi drivers, financial analysts, or police, computers are taking over a growing number of tasks once performed by people. As this Artificial intelligence is part of our daily lives. Whether working as taxi drivers, financial analysts, or police, computers are taking over a growing number of tasks once performed by people. As this occurs, computers will also cause the injuries inevitably associated with these activities. Accidents happen, and now computer-generated accidents happen. The recent fatality caused by Tesla’s autonomous driving software is just one example in a long series of “computer-generated torts.”
Yet hysteria over such injuries is misplaced. In fact, computers are, or at least have the potential to be, substantially safer than people. Self-driving cars will cause accidents, but they will cause fewer accidents than human drivers. Because automation will result in substantial safety benefits, tort law should encourage its adoption as a means of accident prevention.
Under current legal frameworks, manufacturers of computer tortfeasors are likely strictly responsible for their harms. This article argues that where a manufacturer can show that an autonomous computer is safer than a reasonable person, the manufacturer should be liable in negligence rather than strict liability. This would essentially treat a computer tortfeasor as a person rather than a product. It would create a powerful incentive to automate when it would reduce accidents, and it would continue to reward manufactures for improving safety.
In fact, principles of harm avoidance suggest that once computers become safer than people that human tortfeasors should no longer be judged against the standard of the hypothetical reasonable person that has been employed for hundreds of years. Rather, individuals should be compared to computers. To appropriate the immortal words of Justice Holmes, we are all “hasty and awkward” by comparison.
Friday, December 2, 2016
A bill was introduced in the Senate yesterday by Senators Booker and Gillibrand seeking to limit the consideration of race and gender in computing damage awards. The bill will have bipartisan sponsors in the House of Representatives. Ohio State's Martha Chamallas has been heavily involved in the legislation. The Washington Post has details.
This summer I taught Products Liability, and I mused that it was a terrific capstone course. I received more evidence of this yesterday. One of the students in that course is graduating early this month. In a reception for our December graduates, unprompted by me, he told me that Products was a great course to take right before preparing for the bar exam. He cited the review of tort and contract principles.
The California Supreme Court is reviewing a case by one of the courts of appeal that adopted "innovator liability" in products cases, the doctrine imposing liability on brand name manufacturers for injuries caused by their generic versions. Most jurisdictions have rejected the doctrine. The Pacific Legal Foundation's Liberty Blog urges rejection of the theory:
As we argue in our brief, that decision has no connection to any conceivable rationale normally employed in tort. Generally, tort law exists to deter unreasonably dangerous behavior, and to compensate wrongful injuries. But there can be no deterrence where an injury occurs after the generic manufacturer sells the production rights to someone else, and relinquishes control over how the drug is produced and labeled. Only those entities that can monitor, label, test, or otherwise control a product have an incentive to make that product safer. The decision is also unfair, because it imposes never-ending liability for statements that generic manufacturers make. Not even leaving the market and selling the production rights to someone else will relieve a brand drug company from liability.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Mike Rustad and Tom Koenig have published "Rebooting Cybertorts for the Internet of Things" in The Harvard Law Record. A sample:
This unbalanced cybertort jurisprudence has the effect of padlocking the courthouse door to most Internet-related injuries. After Concepcion and Italian Colors, expect even more one-sided consumer arbitration agreements. Such TOU would be rejected in the European Union, which gives consumers the right to pursue justice in their home courts. These mandatory arbitration agreements are essentially an anti-remedy for Internet users because the cost of arbitration will almost always exceed the monetary amount that is at stake. Plus, with class action waivers, there is no aggregation of claims.
It is time for Congress to step in and protect consumers in cyberspace from a new generation of defective products—driverless cars and other connected devices that are part of the Internet of Things.
Cybertort remedies need to evolve further to provide consumers remedies for runaway cars, inadequate security, and misuses of big data. Driverless cars have the potential to all but eliminate driver error. However, connected cars also raise numerous privacy and security concerns. If a car manufacturer assembles massive amounts of data, there is an increased risk that this big data may be misused, compromising the privacy of consumers. Security vulnerabilities in autonomous cars may enable attacks on sensors that notify drivers of dangerous road conditions or could be used to disable the vehicles’ steering and brakes. A compromised vehicle could be used to launch denial of service attacks on other vehicles.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Monday, November 28, 2016
Two people were injured in an off-reservation auto accident with a Mohegan Tribe-owned limousine. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the tribe's sovereign immunity protected the driver from tort claims arising from the accident. Now the USSC has agreed to hear the case. Two weeks ago, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that Native American tribes’ sovereign immunity does not shield tribal employees from tort claims brought against them in their individual capacities. Law 360 has the story.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
Institute for Law Teaching & Learning and Emory University School of Law
Spring Conference 2017
“Compliance with ABA Standard 314: Formative Assessment in Large Classes” is a one-day conference for law teachers and administrators who want to learn how to design, implement, and evaluate formative assessment plans. The conference will be interactive workshops during which attendees will learn about formative assessment techniques from games to crafting multiple choice questions to team-based learning. Participants will also learn ways to coordinate assessment across the curriculum. The conference workshop sessions will take place on Saturday, March 25, 2017, at Emory University School of Law.
Conference Content: Sessions will address the following topics:
Why Assess: Empirical Data on How it Helps Students Learn
Games as Formative Assessments in the Classroom
Formative Assessment with Team-Based Learning
Creating Multiple Choice Questions and Ways to Using Them as Formative Assessment
Coordinating Formative Assessment Across the Curriculum
Conference Faculty: Workshops will be taught by experienced faculty: Andrea Curcio (GSU Law), Lindsey Gustafson (UALR Bowen), Michael Hunter-Schwartz (UALR Bowen), Heidi Holland (Gonzaga) and Sandra Simpson (Gonzaga)
Who Should Attend: This conference is for all law faculty and administrators. By the end of the conference, attendees will have concrete and practical knowledge about formative assessment and complying with Standard 314 to take back to their colleagues and institutions.
Registration Information: The registration fee is $225 for the first registrant from each law school. We are offering a discounted fee of $200 for each subsequent registrant from the same school, so that schools may be able to send multiple attendees. Registration is here: https://emorylaw.wufoo.com/forms/institute-for-law-teaching-learning-conference/
Accommodations: A block of hotel rooms for conference attendees has been reserved at the Emory Conference Center Hotel for $159/night; at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown, Decatur for $99/night; and at the Decatur Holiday Inn for $159/night. Reservation phone numbers are : Emory Conference Center Hotel: 1-800-933-6679; Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Decatur: www.marriott.com or 1-404-371-0204; Holiday Inn Hotel Decatur 1-888-HOLIDAY.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
R. J. Reynolds is arguing to the Florida Supreme Court that Engle is preempted by FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. to the extent that Florida state tort law threatens to ban the sale of cigarettes. Moreover, Reynolds argues that applying Engle to all subsequent cases is a violation of due process. Florida Record has the story.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
John Goldberg & Ben Zipursky have posted to SSRN The Strict Liability in Fault and the Fault in Strict Liability. The abstract provides:
Tort scholars have long been obsessed with the dichotomy between strict liability and liability based on fault or wrongdoing. We argue that this is a false dichotomy. Torts such as battery, libel, negligence, and nuisance are wrongs, yet all are “strictly” defined in the sense of setting objective and thus quite demanding standards of conduct. We explain this basic insight under the heading of “the strict liability in fault.” We then turn to the special case of liability for abnormally dangerous activities, which at times really does involve liability without wrongdoing. Through an examination of this odd corner of tort law, we isolate “the fault in strict liability” — that is, the fault line between the wrongs-based form of strict liability that is frequently an aspect of tort liability and the wrongs-free form of strict liability that is found only within the very narrow domain of liability for abnormally dangerous activities. We conclude by defending these two features of the common law of tort: the strictness of the terms on which it defines wrongdoing and its begrudging willingness to recognize, in one special kind of case, liability without wrongdoing.