TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Friday, May 6, 2016

Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Summer Conference

...will be held June 9-11 at Washburn.  The schedule and registration are here.

May 6, 2016 in Conferences, Teaching Torts | Permalink | Comments (0)

OR: $3M Cap on Damages Against State Upheld

Yesterday, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a $3M  cap on damages against the state and its employees.  The ruling caps a $12M jury verdict for a 2009 botched liver surgery that nearly killed a then 8-year-old boy.  The jury found there were $6M in future medicals, at least half of which must now be absorbed by the family.  OregonLive has the story.

May 6, 2016 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Study: Medical Errors Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

Two physicians at Johns Hopkins have conducted a study concluding that medical errors cause approximately 250,000 deaths every year in the United States, the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.  CNN has the story, including links to the study itself.

May 5, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sharkey on the Economic Loss Rule in Products Cases

Cathy Sharkey has posted to SSRN The Remains of the Citadel (Economic Loss Rule in Products Cases)The abstract provides:

Though its seeds may have been planted long before, the economic loss rule in products liability tort law emerged in full force at the very same moment as the doctrine of strict products liability in the mid-1960s. This moment, fueled by the fall of privity and the rise of implied warranty earlier in the century, was of great doctrinal import — a moment when strict liability threatened to erase altogether the boundary between tort and contract in the context of defective products cases and move those cases firmly into the tort realm. The economic loss rule emerged as a crucial new levee against a flood of potentially limitless tort liability. It forged a new dividing line, keeping cases involving pure financial losses within the domain of con-tract by denying recovery for such losses under any theory of tort. Seen in this light, the economic loss rule emerged to protect the “remains” of the citadel of privity.

William Prosser, so intently focused on the dramatic siege on the citadel of privity, overlooked a few, highly significant cases, where courts continued to require privity in order for the plaintiff to recover for negligently inflicted economic losses by defective products. Over the two decades that followed Prosser’s The Fall of the Citadel, the debate over the economic loss rule in products cases continued to unfold, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court’s embrace in East River Steamship. That case ensured the economic loss rule would keep contract from “drowning in a sea of tort” and that the wall between the “separate spheres” of tort and contract law could not be breached.

After an exploration of the evolution of, and rationales for, the economic loss rule in products cases, this Article examines whether the citadel’s last bastion should be preserved. It con-cludes that the economic loss rule in products cases may be best justified as a means to induce the putative victims — here, the parties with superior information regarding risk of financial loss — to protect themselves.

May 4, 2016 in Products Liability, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Dagan & Dorfman on Ripstein's "Private Wrongs"

Hanoch Dagan & Avi Dorfman have posted to SSRN Against Private Law Escapism:  Comment on Arthur Ripstein, Private Wrongs.  The abstract provides:

Can a comprehensive theory of tort law evade the ultimate test of our moral intuitions (or reflective equilibrium)? We shall argue, first, that Ripstein’s illuminating Private Wrongs, including in particular his organizing distinctions between misfeasance and nonfeasance, between relation and comparison, and between horizontal and vertical justice, cannot escape that test; and, second, that his theory fails to meet such a test.

The Comment proceeds in four stages. We first lay out the basic structure of Ripstein’s theory of the justice of tort law and the nature of the argument he deploys in developing this theory (Part I). We then suggest that, and explain why, his effort to derive the content of the justice of tort law by taking legal doctrine at face value must fail (Part II). The next two stages of the argument consider an alternative reading of Private Wrongs (Part III) and a broader assessment of the justice of tort law against the background of public law (Part IV).

May 2, 2016 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Two by Goldberg & Zipursky

John Goldberg & Ben Zipursky have posted two pieces to SSRN.  First, from this year's AALS Torts Panel, The Myths of MacPherson.  The abstract provides:

For a symposium marking the centenary of Macpherson v. Buick, we identify three common characterizations of Cardozo’s famous opinion that purport to explain its importance. Unfortunately, each of these characterizations turns out to be a myth. MacPherson is worthy of celebration, but not because it recognizes that negligence law’s duty of care is owed to the world, nor because it displays the promise of an instrumental, policy-oriented approach to adjudication, nor because it embraces a nascent form of strict products liability. These myths of MacPherson reflect deep misunderstandings of tort law, and of Cardozo’s distinctively pragmatic approach to adjudication. Ironically, although they have been largely fostered by progressives, the myths lend support to the cause of modern tort reform. By contrast, an accurate appreciation of MacPherson’s virtues permits an understanding of negligence, tort law, and common law adjudication that provides grounds for resisting regressive reforms.

Next, Triangular Torts and Fiduciary Duties.  The abstract provides:

When a professional is negligent in providing services to her client or patient, third parties are sometimes harmed. “Triangular torts,” as we call them, are negligence claims brought against professionals by such third parties. One common example involves a father suing a therapist for inducing his daughter to have false memories of childhood abuse, thereby causing him emotional harm. Another involves a nephew suing a lawyer for incorrectly drafting his aunt’s will, thereby causing him financial loss. Despite the general decline of privity limits on negligence liability, courts frequently reject triangular tort claims, ruling that professionals do not owe duties of care to third parties. In this chapter, we explain when such rulings are warranted — and when they are not. The answer turns on whether the recognition of a duty of care to the third party is consistent with the professional’s fiduciary duty of loyalty to the client or patient.

(Via Solum/LTB)

April 29, 2016 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lawyers to File Negligence Claims Against EPA for Flint Water Contamination

Lawyers for residents of Flint, MI have filed administrative complaints, required as a step to suing government agencies, against the EPA for damage caused by lead in the water.  The complaints reference an alleged email from an agency expert warning about the problem in June 2015.  Reuters has the story.

April 28, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

MO: House Passes Bill Abolishing Collateral Source Rule

The Missouri House passed a bill abolishing the collateral source rule.  A version of the bill has already passed the Missouri Senate.  The Missouri Times has details.

April 27, 2016 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal Writing Conference: Drafting Statutes and Rules

Duquesne is hosting a legal writing conference on drafting statutes and rules on December 3, 2016.  Former PA Governor Tom Corbett and Pennsylvania Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa are among the speakers.  The flyer, including a call for proposals, is here:  Download The Fifth Colonial Frontier Legal Writing Conference Call for Proposals (Second Announcement)

April 27, 2016 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

JOTWELL Torts: Engstrom on Radin on Boilerplate

Over at JOTWELL, Nora Engstrom reviews Margaret Jane Radin's Boilerplate:  The Fine Print, Vanishing Rights, and the Rule of Law.

April 26, 2016 in Books, Scholarship, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Civil Jury Project at NYU Law School Fellowship (Updated: Position Filled 7/11/16)

The Civil Jury Project at NYU Law School is opening a position for a one-year fellowship.  The Project is currently undertaking research on the role of the civil jury.  In its first year, the Project held a conference at NYU on the current use of jury trials and hosted Justice Sotomayor for a discussion of that theme.  This fall the Project will host a conference on the role of juries in patent disputes.  The Project is also sponsoring empirical research on trial innovations and jury capabilities. 
 
The Fellowship offers an opportunity for a year of research on topics related to civil jury trials.  It pays competitively and all benefits.  The Fellow is expected to assist in the work of the project and help oversee empirical and other research, as well as to help generate materials for the Project. 
 
Ideally, fellows will be top graduates looking for a year between clerkships or before starting a clerkship.  Any interested candidates should write to:
 
amy.wright-parra@nyu.edu and should include a cover letter and résumé.  Please write Research Fellow for The Civil Jury Project at NYU School of Law in the subject line of the email. 
Sam Issacharoff and Cathy Sharkey are the faculty directors.  The CJP link: http://civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu/
 
Updated:  Position Filled 7/11/16

April 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Defects in Guns

About two weeks ago, Bloomberg BNA had a piece on defects in firearms.  No agency has the authority to force a recall, meaning voluntary recalls by manufacturers and class actions are the only effective methods.  Class actions are rare.  Victor Schwartz is quoted extensively on "regulation by litigation."

April 25, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 22, 2016

AR: Tort Reform by Ballot

On Wednesday, Arkansas's attorney general approved the wording of a proposed ballot item to amend the constitution that would instruct the state's legislature to set a cap on punies in med mal cases at no less than $250,000.  It would have to be adjusted for inflation every 2 years.  Lawyers would also be prohibited from charging over one-third as a contingency fee.  With the approval, the sponsor can begin gathering the 84,859 signatures needed to place the proposal on the November ballot.  (Via Arkansas News)  Punies in med mal cases are extremely rare, but, if awarded, tend to be in high amounts.

April 22, 2016 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

UT: Children Under the Age of 5 Cannot Be Liable for Negligence

The Utah Supreme Court recently adopted a bright-line cutoff for liability for negligent children, following R3 by setting the limit at 5 years old.  The case involved a 4 year old who threw a rubber dolphin at his babysitter.  Unfortunately, the dolphin hit the babysitter in the eye.  She had just had a cornea transplant and the accident blinded her.  The Volokh Conspiracy has the story.

April 20, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

FL: Supreme Court to Decide Constitutionality of "Ex Parte Communications" Med Mal Reform

In 2013, the Florida legislature passed a med mal reform requiring claimants filing lawsuits to sign forms authorizing ex parte communications:

In ex parte communications, for example, defense attorneys representing a doctor accused of malpractice could get personal health information about the patient involved in the case. That information could come from other doctors who treated the patient, and disclosure could occur without the patient's attorney being present.

In October of 2014, the Eleventh Circuit held that the reform did not violate HIPAA.  The 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the law's constitutionality last year.  The Florida Supreme Court will now decide the issue.  A date for oral argument has not been set.  Health News Florida has details.

April 19, 2016 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Suit Against Gun Maker in Newtown Massacre Allowed to Proceed

Back in February, I reported about a suit brought by families of the children murdered in Newtown against gun manufacturers.  The plaintiffs, attempting to get around the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, advanced a negligent entrustment theory.  The judge has now ruled that the claim may proceed.  The New York Times has details.

April 18, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 15, 2016

11th Edition of Epstein & Sharkey's Casebook Available

From the authors: 

We are excited to launch the 11th edition of our casebook, Cases and Materials on Torts, which marks a real sea change in the four short years since we teamed up as co-editors.  We have redesigned our book in response to the new sensibilities of the age.  For the first time, the book contains historical images, cartoons, tables, and charts that are set off from the main text to supply visual background information about the persons, places, and things that hold center stage in the cases and materials of the book.  The design of these materials has been spruced up with red headings to mark transitions and with boxes that contain key provisions of the various Restatements of Torts.

In response to the suggestions of our faithful users, we have judiciously shortened the material by thinning out the notes and eliminating some of the less popular principal cases.  In doing so, we have held fast to the intellectual rigor, historical depth, and careful case selection and notes found in the previous ten editions.  But we have embraced change as well, adding diverse perspectives (such as race and gender-based critiques of damages calculations, which have gained additional judicial attention), incorporating contemporary empirical scholarship (especially on medical malpractice, damages and jury decision-making), addressing the increasing influence of technology (such as privacy and defamation in the Internet age), and keeping pace with modern trends in business tort litigation, including the most recent the Third Restatement project on liability for economic harms (such as fraud and negligent misrepresentation).

To get a feel for the pedagogy in our book, we encourage you to have a look at a sample chapter posted on our Companion Website.  In your review of this chapter, here are a few noteworthy features (which are representative of those that appear throughout the book):

  • Judge portraits.  See pages: 141 for Tindal, 144 for Holmes, 170 for Hand, and 172 for Posner and Calabresi
  • Charts and graphs.  Look to page 236 for one depicting “vanishing trial”
  • Judge vs. jury section, including reference to current empirical study of jury/judge decision-making (245-48)
  • Boxes.  This one depicts significant Restatement provisions and pattern jury instructions (252-3)
  • Cartoons and other images  that engage students.  See page 139 for a cartoon from The New Yorker.

Our goal is nothing short of producing a Torts casebook for the next generation of torts professors and students.  With that in mind, the new 11th Edition will now also be available digitally, as a Connected Casebook.  In addition to offering students an enhanced eBook with note taking and highlighting capabilities, the “connected” version of our casebook also includes an outlining tool, a wealth of self-assessment materials – including multiple choice and essay questions, and analytics that enable the student or professor to see which topics may need further clarification or study. 

We are indebted to our torts colleagues across the country and now two generations of torts students (at Chicago, Columbia, and NYU) for their received wisdom on various topics and issues raised in our book.  We would be delighted to hear from anyone interested in exploring our book in either 1L torts courses or advanced torts or business torts courses.

If you’d like to receive a review copy of our book, please click here.

Thank you for your consideration,

Richard Epstein, richard.epstein@nyu.edu

Catherine Sharkey, catherine.sharkey@nyu.edu

April 15, 2016 in Books, Teaching Torts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

CO: Strict Privity Rule Upheld for Legal Malpractice

The Colorado Supreme Court held attorneys owe no duties to non-clients, such as the beneficiaries of a will, absent allegations of fraud, a malicious or tortious act, like negligent misrepresentation.  JD Supra Business Advisor has details.

April 14, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Two by Sharkey

Cathy Sharkey has posted two pieces to SSRN.  First, States v. FDA.  The abstract provides:

In the United States, food and drug safety is regulated in two ways: a stringent ex ante, national regime led by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) and a robust ex post system of state-law enforcement. This federalist structure, operating on dual regulatory levels, sets the stage for synergy and for conflict.

Two recent high-profile preemption lawsuits showcase a novel dimension of the dual regulatory structure: the role of states as competing and/or complementary actors vis-à-vis the FDA in regulating food and drug safety. In Zogenix, Inc. v. Patrick, a federal district court enjoined the Massachusetts government from enacting a statewide ban on Zohydro, an FDA-approved opioid analgesic drug, but upheld the state’s subsequent prescription and dispensation-related restrictions. In Grocery Manufacturers Association v. Sorrell, food industry representatives challenged a recently enacted Vermont law mandating labeling of genetically engineered food—labeling that the FDA had not required.

Both cases explore how states can regulate drug and food safety without treading impermissibly upon the FDA’s turf. In doing so, they raise the issue of who should determine if state regulatory efforts advance or impede the federal regulatory scheme. Are courts or the regulating agencies the better arbiters? If the latter, when are their conclusions entitled to judicial deference, and how much?

This Article advances two primary claims. First, courts, when facing implied obstacle preemption challenges to state regulations, should consider the FDA’s view on the matter—namely whether the agency itself considers the state-level regulation to conflict with its national regulatory agenda. In Zogenix, the court, strikingly, paid no attention to the FDA Commissioner’s overt support of Massachusetts’s proposed restrictions on the prescribing and dispensing of Zohydro. In Sorrell, the court had before it informal policy guidance from the FDA that suggested that the agency was somewhat open to state labeling mandates. Deference to the FDA’s position in each case would have provided clear resolution of the preemption challenge.

Second, these cases reiterate and reinforce the argument at the heart of the ACUS 2010 Recommendation, Agency Procedures for Considering Preemption of State Law: if there is ever to be a coherent body of case law and regulatory policy in the realm of food and drug laws, courts must probe the FDA’s record on its examination and consideration of relevant state interests in the course of the federal regulation enactment process. Rather than blindly deferring to the federal agency’s view, courts should evaluate whether that view was the product of a responsible process that afforded states the chance to articulate how their own proposed state regulation fits with the federal regulatory scheme.

Next, The BP Oil Spill Settlements, Classwide Punitive Damages, and Societal Deterrence.  The abstract provides:

The BP oil spill litigation and subsequent settlements provide an opportunity to explore a novel societal economic deterrence rationale for classwide supra-compensatory damages. Judge Jack Weinstein was a pioneer in the field of punitive damages class certification. In In re Simon II, he certified a nationwide punitive-damages-only class in a multijurisdiction, multidefendant tobacco lawsuit. Using Judge Weinstein’s innovations in In re Simon II as an analytical lens, the Article evaluates the future prospects for classwide punitive damages claims.

Specifically, the Article considers how private litigants might adopt a societal damages approach in negotiating and achieving class action settlements. Class action settlements readily accommodate the “public law” dimension of societal damages, as demonstrated by the classwide punitive damages settlement with BP’s co-defendant Halliburton. Indeed, on closer inspection, even the BP compensatory damages class settlement has a surrounding aura of societal damages. For even that ostensibly purely compensatory arrangement included an unusual (and mostly overlooked) feature: a provision for supra-compensatory multipliers applicable to certain claimants. This Article advances the new idea that these supra-compensatory multipliers are a form of classwide societal damages embedded within the settlement, and, in turn, a potential blueprint for nascent punitive damages classes of the future.

April 12, 2016 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 11, 2016

PA: Bill to Extend Sexual Abuse Statutes of Limitation Approved by House Judiciary Committee

In the wake of the grand jury report on sexual abuse of minors in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, the House Judiciary Committee approved the removal of statutes of limitation in sex crimes and extending the statute of limitations until the victim turns 50 years old for civil cases.  There was, however, no provision for a 2-year retroactive window to allow past victims to sue.  Pennlive has details.

April 11, 2016 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)