TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Univ. School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

AALS Torts Newsletter

The AALS Torts & Compensation Systems Section Newsletter is available here:  Download Torts_Newsletter_2014.  Section Secretary Leslie Kendrick drafted it, with the help of Kristin Glover, Research Librarian at UVa Law.

October 22, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Parisi et al. on Deterrence in Ancient Law

Francesco Parisi, Daniel Pi, Barbara Luppi, and Iole Fargnoli have posted to SSRN Deterrence of Wrongdoing in Ancient Law.  The abstract provides:

Ancient laws addressed all types of wrongdoing with a single set of remedies that over time pursued a changing mix of retaliatory, punitive and compensatory objectives. In this paper, we consider the historical transition from retaliatory to punitive justice, and the subsequent transition from punitive to compensatory justice. This paper shows how the optimal level of enforcement varies under the three corrective regimes. Crimes that create a larger net social loss require lower levels of enforcement under retaliatory regimes. The optimal level of enforcement is instead independent of the degree of inefficiency of the crime when punitive and compensatory remedies are utilized. The paper provides several historical illustrations and sheds light on some of the legal paradoxes of ancient law.

October 20, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hylton on Nuisance

Keith Hylton (Boston University) has posted to SSRN Nuisance.  The abstract provides:

This essay sets out the law and the economic theory of nuisance.  Nuisance law serves a regulatory function: it induces actors to choose the socially preferred level of an activity by imposing liability when the externalized costs of the activity are substantially greater than the externalized benefits or not reciprocal to other background external costs.  Proximate cause doctrine plays a role in supplementing nuisance law.

October 14, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Geistfeld on Risk Distribution and Tort Law

Mark Geistfeld (NYU) has posted to SSRN Risk Distribution and the Law of Torts:  Carrying Calabresi Further The abstract provides:

In a seminal article written almost 50 years ago, Guido Calabresi explained that risk distribution is an ambiguous concept that can refer to the manner in which tort liability affects the allocation of scarce resources, the spreading of losses across society, or the attainment of normatively desirable distributive outcomes. The first two conceptions are combined in the (now) conventional economic analysis of tort law, a methodological approach that is routinely associated with Calabresi. In contrast, the remaining conception of risk distribution that Calabresi identified — the attainment of normatively desirable distributive outcomes — is not ordinarily associated with the economic analysis of tort law, and yet this conception is the one that Calabresi has repeatedly invoked as being of decisive importance. In doing so, Calabresi has described how economic analysis can inform distributive questions within tort law, although he never fully developed this approach.

In this article, I try to carry Calabresi further by more rigorously showing how distributive economic analysis can be relevant to the normative evaluation of tort law. In contrast to Calabresi’s conclusion about the “pointlessness of Pareto,” I first argue that the Pareto principle embodies an autonomy-based compensatory norm that tort law can rely on to implement corrective justice under nonideal conditions that foreclose fully consensual compensatory exchanges. Within the context of these forced exchanges, a compensatory payment satisfies a compensatory obligation, which in turn is defined by the correlative compensatory right. Consequently, I next identify the substantive properties of a compensatory tort right and show how the right holder’s compensatory demands can be fully satisfied by the duty holder’s exercise of reasonable care in a wide range of cases. A compensatory norm can be fully implemented by the distribution of risk without an entitlement to compensatory damages in the event of injury, a conclusion that sheds new light on Calabresi’s original insight about the varied meanings of risk distribution within tort law.

Finally, I employ distributive economic analysis to show how the tort system can be conceptualized as a compensatory mechanism. Tort compensation is not merely a form of accident insurance as assumed by the conventional economic analysis of tort law; it fits readily into Calabresi’s taxonomy of desirable legal innovations that shift the Pareto frontier outwards. By expanding the feasible set of fully compensatory outcomes that can be attained under existing social conditions, the tort system enables individuals to engage in new risky activities while adequately compensating those who are disadvantaged by the risky behavior. The tort system has a normative dimension that is brought into sharp relief by the type of distributive economic analysis that has been championed by Calabresi but neglected by the conventional economic analysis of tort law.

October 7, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 22, 2014

JOTWELL Torts: Scheuerman on Adar on Punies

Over at JOTWELL, Sheila Scheuerman reviews Yehuda Adar's Touring the Punitive Damages Forest:  A Proposed Roadmap.

September 22, 2014 in Scholarship, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Study: Cost of Defensive Medicine 2.9% of Healthcare Costs

A study with a lead author from the Cleveland Clinic, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, concludes that purely defensive medicine accounts for 2.9% of U.S. healthcare costs.  The study is available for purchase here.  The L.A. Times's "The Economy Hub" discusses the study here.

September 21, 2014 in Current Affairs, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hedley on the Nature of Private Law

Steve Hedley (University College Cork) has posted to SSRN Obligations:  (Local) Politics or (Universal) Reason?.  The abstract provides:

Obligations is both a local institution, influenced by politics, and a universal institution, influenced by reason. It is a distraction to ask which vision should be allowed to predominate: neither truth should be allowed to obscure the other. The real question is how best to accommodate both.  This paper approaches the question by comparing two very different descriptions of private law: Ernest Weinrib’s "The Idea of Private Law" (a universal description not expressly tied to any legal system, beyond that it is based on the common law) and Merkin and Steele’s "Insurance and the Law of Obligations" (which is explicitly tied to the legal system of England/Wales). While there are considerable differences between the two (and I imagine that neither approach seems to value the other very much) there are also some surprising similarities between them, raising questions as to the proper perspective from which to describe private law.

September 17, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Oberdiek's Introduction to Philosophical Foundations of the Law of Torts

John Oberdiek (Rutgers-Camden) has posted to SSRN Introduction:  Philosophical Foundations of the Law of Torts.  The abstract provides:

This Introduction to Philosophical Foundations of the Law of Torts (John Oberdiek, ed., Oxford University Press, 2014) provides a brief history of the discipline of tort theory, maps out current debates in the field, and introduces the volume's nineteen chapters.  Along the way, this Introduction addresses many of the core problems in the philosophy of tort law, draws connections between them.

September 16, 2014 in Books, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rodwin & Silverman on the Existence of a Med Mal Crisis

Marc Rodwin (Suffolk) & Justin Silverman have posted to SSRN Why the Medical Malpractice Crisis Persists Even When Malpractice Insurance Premiums Fall.  The abstract provides:

Concerns that medical malpractice premiums continue to grow unabated has led to numerous proposals to change liability rules and reform tort laws.  Not only would proposed legislation make lawsuits more difficult for plaintiffs, but the bills do not address the real source of the problems they intend to solve. Premiums are not rising as claimed and even if they were, other factors are contributing to the plight of physicians. But in fact, the claim that malpractice premiums are an unbearable burden for most physicians is myth, not fact.

The first section of this article will examine how this myth began and the proposed legislative remedies it spawned. It will show that junk data has been used to support legislation and it will then introduce more reliable data bearing on these issues.  Next, this article will describe other factors that are rarely mentioned but that have important effects on the cost of medical practice and physician income.  If doctors are truly closing up shop, it’s not because of malpractice insurance premiums. This article will then examine one AMA-declared “crisis state” to see if there are indeed crises in some selected states, even if there is no crisis nationally.  As will be explained, there are not.  The study of individual states reveals that there are premium cycles, that recent premium increases reflect these cycles, and that rates will probably fall as they have in the past following an increase. Finally, this article will offer insight into why physicians continue to perceive a crisis despite the data presented and what the future may hold for reform.

September 4, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Two by Goldberg

John Goldberg (Harvard) has posted two pieces to SSRN.  First up is Inexcusable Wrongs.  The abstract provides:

Tort law has little patience for excuses. Criminal law is more forgiving — it recognizes nominate excuses such as duress and provocation, as well as innominate excuses that temper punishment. Excuses are also commonplace in ordinary morality. Like criminal law and morality, tort law seems concerned with holding persons accountable for their wrongs, and excuses seem to go hand-in-hand with accountability. So why — or in what sense — are torts inexcusable wrongs? 

This Article explains how tort law, understood as law that enables victims to hold wrongdoers answerable to them, cogently can refuse to recognize excuses.  In doing so, it offers a unified account of many of tort law’s core features, including the objectivity of negligence law’s ordinary care standard, the courts’ insistence on injury as a condition of liability, and the strictness of certain forms of tort liability. More generally, it invites us to broaden our understanding of what it means for law to identify conduct as wrongful, and for law to set up schemes for holding wrongdoers accountable. 

Scholars ranging from Holmes to Posner have supposed that, when judges and scholars treat tort as a law for the redress of wrongs, they embrace primitive ideas of vengeance, or empty and sanctimonious notions of morality. This supposition is mistaken. In order to make sense of tort law, one must appreciate that it identifies wrongs and provides rights of action not in the name of vengeance or piousness, but to enable us to hold each other accountable for injuries that we wrongfully inflict on one another.

Next, co-authored with Gabriella Blum (Harvard), is War for the Wrong Reasons:  Lessons from Law.  The abstract provides:

In Ethics for Enemies, Frances Kamm argues that, under certain conditions, it is morally permissible for a state to launch a war for opportunistic reasons. We consider how law might shed light on Kamm’s argument. Part I addresses the application of criminal and tort law to individual acts of violence analogous to the acts of war analyzed by Kamm. It primarily argues that these bodies of law rely on a framework for determining legal permissibility that runs counter to, and perhaps demonstrates weaknesses in, Kamm’s framework for assessing moral permissibility. Part II considers the law of war. It maintains that, although modern law permits certain opportunistic acts of war, the law does so on terms that cut against Kamm’s claim as to their moral permissibility.

September 3, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wright on Moore on Causation and Responsibility

Richard Wright (Chicago-Kent) has posted to SSRN Moore on Causation and Responsibility:  Metaphysics or Intuition?.  The abstract provides:

This paper was prepared for a festschrift in honor of Michael Moore to be published by Oxford University Press.  Moore's magnum opus, Causation and Responsibility, amply demonstrates his encyclopedic knowledge of the relevant sources in law and philosophy and his analytical skill.  Much can be learned from careful, critical reading.

However, I argue, Moore relies too much on intuition -- more specifically, his own -- in developing his account of causation and its pervasive and (he claims) dominant role in attributions of legal responsibility.  Focusing on the NESS account that I have elaborated, he rejects "generalist" accounts of causation, which analyze singular instances of causation as instantiations of causal (natural) laws, instead opting for a "primitivist singularist" account, according to which we simply recognize causation when we see it in each particular instance without any even implicit reference to causal laws or any other "reductionist" test.  He erroneously treats the "substantial factor" criterion in the first and second Restatements of Torts (which is properly strongly criticized and rejected in the third Restatement) as being such a primitivist singularist account.  In addition, he seeks to replace all of the traditional normative limitations on legal responsibility with a supposed causal analysis, based on the "scalarity" of causation.

Yet, Moore believes, intuitions come into conflict with metaphysics when considering omissions or other absences as causes, which is routinely assumed to be true in law and life but which Moore insists is fundamentally erroneous from a metaphysical standpoint.  His insistence on this point, while admirable from an intellectual integrity standpoint, completely undermines the fundamental premise of his book -- that causation is the pervasive and dominant determinant of legal responsibility -- since omissions/absences are part of every causal chain involving human action and many not involving human action.

In this paper, I defend a specific "generalist" account of causation (the NESS account) and criticize Moore's primitivist singularist account.  Along the way, I address a number of issues regarding causation and legal responsibility, including the metaphysical basis for treating omissions as causes.

September 2, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

McBride on Tort & Human Flourishing

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.

August 28, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Two by Solomon on Juries

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.

August 25, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Abraham & White on Prosser

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.

August 22, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Calabresi on Liability Rules

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."

August 20, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Long on Consent in Defamation and Employment Reference Cases

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.

August 19, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Harris & Peeples on Demographic and System Variables in Med Mal

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.

August 18, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dorfman & Jacob on Trespass

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.

--CJR

August 11, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 8, 2014

JOTWELL Torts: Bublick on Goudkamp's "Tort Law Defences"

Ellen M. Bublick (Arizona) has a Jot on James Goudkamp's 2013 book, "Tort Law Defences."

- SBS

August 8, 2014 in Scholarship, TortsProfs, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Do Physicians Respond to Liability Standards?

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.

--CJR

August 4, 2014 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)