Thursday, August 28, 2014
Nicholas McBride (Cambridge) has posted to SSRN Tort Law and Human Flourishing. The abstract provides:
This is the second in a loose ‘trilogy’ of three papers that I presented at successive Obligations conferences: Obligations V (at the University of Oxford, in 2010, on the theme of ‘Rights and Private Law’), Obligations VI (at the University of Western Ontario, in 2012, on the theme of ‘Challenging Orthodoxy’), and Obligations VII (at Hong Kong University, in 2014, on the theme of ‘Divergence and Convergence in Private Law’).
In this paper, I argue that giving effect to the ‘balanced approach’ to determining what rights we have that I set out in my paper on ‘Rights and the basis of tort law’ requires one to draw on a vision of what human flourishing entails, so that we can determine whether the benefit to A from finding that he has a particular right against B outweighs the burden that B will incur if we find that A has such a right against B. I go on to argue that the vision of human flourishing that underlies the law’s practice in determining what rights we have against each other is a very familiar one – one that is widely prevalent in the West and best set out in the writings of John Finnis. I go on to criticise this account of human flourishing as radically defective, and explain what difference adopting a sounder view of what human flourishing entails would have on what rights we are recognised as having against other people.
I hope that this paper and the other two papers in the trilogy will eventually form the basis of a book, to be called The Humanity of Private Law.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Jason Solomon has posted two pieces to SSRN. First is a symposium introduction to The Civil Jury as Political Institution. The abstract provides:
More than two hundred years after the Seventh Amendment enshrined the civil jury right, the debate over the role of the civil jury in the United States continues unabated. But even as questions about the civil jury’s competence as an adjudicative institution continue, questions surrounding the civil jury’s justification and role as a political institution are under explored.
To explore these questions in contemporary society, the Bill of Rights Institute and Law Review at William & Mary Law School hosted a symposium on The Civil Jury as a Political Institution. For two days in February 2013, scholars from an array of disciplines gathered to consider the extent to which the civil jury played a meaningful role as a political institution historically, whether it still serves that purpose today and, if so, what measures can or should be taken to ensure its continuing significance.
This short essay is the introduction to the symposium issue of the William & Mary Law Review on this topic. The essay provides a brief summary and exploration of some of the themes that arose in the papers and during the discussion.
Second is Juries, Social Norms, and Civil Justice. The abstract provides:
At the root of many contemporary debates and landmark cases in the civil justice system are underlying questions about the role of the civil jury. In prior work, I examined the justifications for the civil jury as a political institution, and found them wanting in our contemporary legal system.
This Article looks closely and critically at the justification for the civil jury as an adjudicative institution and questions the conventional wisdom behind it. The focus is on tort law because the jury has more power to decide questions of law in tort than any other area of law. The Article makes three original contributions.
First, I undermine the claim that the breach question in negligence is inevitably one for the jury by revisiting a famous debate between Cardozo and Holmes about the possibility of judge-made rules around breach in tort. Second, I draw on social and cognitive psychology to question the conventional wisdom that juries applying general standards are ideally suited to identify and apply social norms. And third, I sketch a middle-ground approach on breach, which involves presumptive rules that defer to indicia of social norms such as statutes and regulations, custom, and the market.
In making the argument, this Article begins to point the way towards a tort system that recognizes the value of recourse but better serves rule-of-law values.
Friday, August 22, 2014
The paper is not yet available, but I want to advertise the forthcoming piece by Ken Abraham & Ted White for the Journal of Tort Law tribute to Jeffrey O'Connell. The abstract for Prosser and His Influence provides:
This Article focuses on the rhetorical strategies employed by William L. Prosser in presenting overviews of tort law doctrines in his celebrated Handbook of the Law of Torts, which was first published in 1941 and went through three additional editions between that date and 1971. We devote special attention to Prosser’s treatment of two relatively novel actions, intentional infliction of emotional distress and privacy, in which Prosser’s conceptualization of the elements and scope of each of the actions was influential in their adoption by numerous jurisdictions.
We also explore the sources of Prosser’s influence among his contemporaries in the legal profession in the three decades beginning in the 1940s. Prosser was unquestionably the leading torts scholar of his time: his Handbook was regarded as the authoritative torts treatise of his day, his Torts casebook was the most widely adopted in the nation, and he was the principal Reporter for the Second Restatement of Torts, which was first published in 1965. We survey the reaction of reviewers to the first edition of his treatise, which was uniformly favorable, serving to establish Prosser’s Handbook as the equivalent of a masterpiece. We also attempt to demonstrate, through a close reading of the paragraphs in which Prosser sought to make generalizations about tort doctrines, the way in which he sought to create an impression of doctrinal order that was not quite consistent with the cases he cited as support for his doctrinal propositions. Finally, we contrast the implicit criteria for scholarly visibility and influence under which Prosser forged his reputation with the quite different criteria operating in the contemporary legal academy, and seek to provide explanations for the origins of those sources of influence.
Update:: The draft is now available here.
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
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.
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.
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.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
David Hyman (Illinois) and Charles Silver (Texas) have posted to SSRN Double, Double Toil and Trouble: Justice-Talk and the Future of Medical Malpractice Litigation. The abstract provides:
It’s not easy being a lawyer. “Biglaw” may not be dead (yet), but major firms have dissolved, filed for bankruptcy, and shed partners and practice groups. Small and mid-sized firms and solo practitioners are facing similar challenges. Some of these developments are attributable to the financial crisis and the Great Recession. Others are the result of structural and technological changes affecting the market for legal services — and those changes have revealed new weaknesses in the business forms through which lawyers have traditionally delivered legal services. To most inhabitants of Biglaw, these changes and challenges are unprecedented, but to lawyers who do medical malpractice and personal injury litigation, market turbulence of this sort is old hat. Over the past three decades, there have been dramatic changes in the market (and demand) for such services. Some of these changes are clearly attributable to legislative action, including caps on noneconomic or total damages, and procedural hurdles such as screening panels, certification requirements, and interlocutory appeals of expert witness reports. But, even in states that have not taken such steps, there has been a long-term secular decline in the volume of medical malpractice litigation. Apart from the highly visible public brawl over the merits of damage caps, these developments have attracted little attention. However, the dynamics are clear to those who wish to pay attention to them. In this Article, we explore these trends, highlight the ways in which they have interacted with one another, and then briefly discuss why it is not helpful to analyze these developments in terms of their impact on “access to justice.”
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Friday, July 11, 2014
Erik Encarnacion has posted "Corrective Justice as Making Amends" to SSRN. The abstract provides:
Many tort theorists claim that tort law’s basic structure must be understood in terms of moral principles of corrective justice. Formulations of these principles vary, but they hold (roughly) that one person who injures another wrongfully has a duty to repair the losses associated with that injury. In the last decade, several tort theorists have criticized traditional corrective justice theories for, among other things, failing to account for key structural features of tort practice. This article outlines and defends an alternative conception of corrective justice called the making amends conception. By understanding corrective justice as just another name for the familiar moral phenomenon of making amends, and by viewing tort law as a formalization of that informal phenomenon, we can arrive at a conception of corrective justice that can resist the criticisms while providing an independently attractive picture of tort law.
Monday, July 7, 2014
Alberto Bernabe (The John Marshall Law School & Torts Blog) has posted to SSRN Civil Liability for Injuries Caused by Dogs after Tracey v. Solesky: New Path to the Future or Back to the Past?. The abstract provides:
Two years ago, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a case called Tracey v. Solesky in which it modified the common law of the state related to strict liability in cases involving injuries caused by dogs. Although Solesky was neither a big departure from the applicable law at the time nor an adoption of the alternative, and more prevalent, view in other jurisdictions, the Maryland legislature eventually abrogated its holding entirely. As a result, the current applicable doctrine is a collage of different approaches and it is difficult to see how it protects victims of dog attacks more than they were protected before Solesky. This article reviews the tort law doctrines that operate to manage the costs of injuries caused by dogs and discusses the consequences of the approval of the new statute in Maryland. It concludes that instead of reverting back to the common law predating Solesky, a more careful balancing of the interests involved should have resulted in either adopting the prevalent view in the majority of jurisdictions or in an understanding of how Solesky actually advanced a better public policy than the common law it modified.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Greg Keating (USC) has posted two pieces to SSRN. First, When Is Emotional Distress Harm?. The abstract provides:
In 1968, the California Supreme Court decided Dillon v. Legg, to this day the most famous American negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) case. In a nutshell, Dillon ruled that, henceforth, the scope of liability for negligent infliction of emotional harm would be governed by the same principle of reasonable foreseeability which governs the scope of liability for the infliction of physical harm. In retrospect, Dillon brought to a close an important period of American negligence law. Early in the twentieth century, in his celebrated MacPherson and Palsgraf decisions, Benjamin Cardozo made reasonable foreseeability the cornerstone of both duty and scope of liability (proximate cause). In extending the principle of reasonable foreseeability to cover emotional distress as well as physical harm, Dillon was fulfilling the premise and promise of Cardozo’s great decisions. Yet within twenty years, it became clear to the very same court that, although reasonable foreseeability sets reasonable boundaries to liability for physical harm, it licenses too much liability for emotional distress. In an ironic development, the principle of reasonable foreseeability embraced by Dillon v. Legg was recast as an arbitrary rule in Thing v. LaChusa. Ever since, courts and commentators have struggled to articulate principled boundaries for liability for NIED.
For the most part, courts have rested on the unsatisfying principle that liability must have some limit and pretty much any limit will do. The conventional wisdom is that this kind of arbitrary limitation is unavoidable. This chapter, prepared for the Obligations VII conference on Challenging Orthodoxy in Private Law, argues that progress may be made toward articulating principled boundaries for emotional injury by pursuing two paths. The first is taxonomical. NIED is about scope of liability; it is properly understood as a matter of proximate cause, not duty. The duty breached in Dillon v. Legg, for example, was the long-established duty to exercise reasonable care when driving an automobile. The question before the court was whether liability for breach of that duty extended to persons who foreseeably suffered severe emotional distress. What is true of this particular case is true generally: NIED does not ground new duties of care, it extends liability for breaches of preexisting, independently recognized, duties of care. This itself places boundaries on liability. The second path toward articulating principled boundaries on NIED liability is to inquire into the concept of harm and ask just when emotional distress counts as harm. Liability for negligence is, at its core, liability for physical harm and physical harm has long been understood in the law of negligence to mean physical impairment. Physical impairment, for its part, is impairment of normal physical capacities.
There is progress to be made in discrimination among instances of emotional distress by extending this idea of impairment to emotional injuries. Some emotional harms are impairments; to suffer them is to be left with impaired psychological capacities. Childhood sexual abuse, for example, characteristically leaves its victims with impaired capacities for trust. The death of one’s small child — the harm at issue in Dillon — is a harder case, but it seems intuitively correct to say that the death of a child often impairs the life of the parent in a profound way. Parents who witness the deaths of their children are often “never the same.” Part of the parent dies with the child, because the child’s life represents such a deep and irreplaceable investment of the parent’s agency. By asking when and why emotional suffering is not transient distress but enduring impairment it may be possible to make progress in limiting NIED liability in a principled, non-arbitrary manner.
Second, Strict Liability Wrongs; the abstract provides:
Strict liability is an orphan among moral theorists of torts. They wish either to expunge it from the law of torts entirely, or to assimilate it to negligence liability. This chapter argues that strict liability torts are genuine wrongs. They involve violations of rights, and they delineate two distinctive domains of wrongful conduct. One domain — the territory of “harm-based” strict liabilities — involves the distinctive wrong of harming-without-repairing. The other domain — the territory of “sovereignty torts” — involves the distinctive wrong of violating core autonomy rights which confer on persons fundamental powers of control over their selves and their property.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
The Tulane Law Review recently hosted "The Evolution of Asbestos Litigation: Enduring Issues and the Administration of Trusts." The articles are now available:
Edward F. Sherman, The Evolution of Asbestos Litigation, 88 Tul. L. Rev. 1021 (2014).
Georgene Vairo, Lessons Learned By the Reporter: Is Disaggregation the Answer to the Asbestos Mess?, 88 Tul. L. Rev. 1039 (2014).
Lester Brickman, Fraud and Abuse in Mesothelioma Litigation, 88 Tul. L. Rev. 1071 (2014).
Joseph Sanders, The “Every Exposure” Cases and the Beginning of the Asbestos Endgame, 88 Tul. L. Rev. 1153 (2014).
Peggy L. Ableman, A Case Study From a Judicial Perspective: How Fairness and Integrity in Asbestos Tort Litigation Can Be Undermined by Lack of Access to Bankruptcy Trust Claims, 88 Tul. L. Rev. 1185 (2014).
Anita Bernstein, Gender in Asbestos Law: Cui Bono? Cui Pacat?, 88 Tul. L. Rev. 11211 (2014).