Thursday, June 14, 2018
John Goldberg has posted to SSRN Benjamin Cardozo and the Death of the Common Law. The abstract provides:
Although a member of the Supreme Court at the time, Benjamin Cardozo did not participate in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins. He was dying. It is a mere fortuity that Cardozo’s death coincided with the death of the general common law. Yet it has since proved to be something more—or so this symposium essay argues. It is in part because our highest court took itself out of the business of making law in contract, property, tort, and related areas that Cardozo’s beloved common law has fallen on hard times, and that even state-court judges have increasingly lost their feel for how to reason about it. Today, there is no member of a state judiciary who rivals Cardozo in stature. Mainly this is a testament to his extraordinary gifts. But it also reflects the waning of the common law in the United States, and a concomitant loss of the sense of what it means to be a great common-law judge.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
The Reporters for R3: Torts: Intentional Torts to Persons, Ken Simons & Jonathan Cardi, respond to critiques from prominent torts scholars in a symposium published in the Journal of Tort Law. Entitled Restating the Intentional Torts to Persons: Seeing the Forest and the Trees, the abstract provides:
The five thoughtful, incisive articles by Professors Bernstein, Chamallas, Geistfeld, Moore, and Sugarman offer a breathtaking range of perspectives on the Restatement, Third of Torts: Intentional Torts to Persons (“ITR”). Some view tort law from the widest vantage point, inquiring whether this forest deserves its own appellation or should instead be assimilated to the rest of tort’s greenery. Some focus more on the trees–on the distinct doctrines that characterize the torts and defenses that ITR is restating. In this response, we engage with the participants at both levels.
Our response also addresses two fundamental questions–the role of a Restatement and the significance of the “intentional tort” category. First, ITR is a Restatement of tort law. It is not a model code of tort law, nor is it an academic article committed to a particular vision of the proper purposes and principles of tort law. We see our task, not as creating a grand theory from which all of intentional tort doctrine can be deduced, but as a bottom-up endeavor, accurately characterizing developments in the case law and then providing the most sensible and persuasive justifications for extant doctrine. At the same time, however, we strive to provide intellectual coherence to this body of law. Thus, we examine not only the holdings in narrow doctrinal categories, but also the consistency of those holdings with more general tort law principles.
Second, what is distinctive about the intentional torts to persons? How do they differ from torts of negligence or from other intentional torts? These questions have no simple answer, because most of the intentional torts to persons have very long historical roots, and because the common law process of reformulating doctrine has played a vital role in defining the scope of these torts in current American law. It is thus not at all surprising to find tensions and apparent inconsistencies between some current doctrines.
Nevertheless, we believe that the contemporary formulations of these torts are indeed justifiable in principle. First, these intentional torts sometimes reflect a hierarchy of fault or culpability. Purposely injuring someone is more culpable, ceteris paribus, than negligently causing the same injury. Second, these torts sometimes protect distinct interests, such as the interest in avoiding emotional harm or in freedom of movement, that for various policy reasons are not protected by liability rules if they are only negligently invaded. Third, the intentional torts do not simply identify species of conduct that reflect greater fault or culpability than negligence. Comparing intentional torts is sometimes akin to comparing apples and oranges, because these torts protect a varied set of interests or protect them in varying ways. Fourth, the intentional torts express a pluralistic set of values and principles. No single principle (such as welfare, autonomy, or freedom) fully explains all of these torts. And fifth, although these intentional torts contain some reasonableness criteria, for the most part they reject the reasonableness paradigm of negligence, and thus reject the more flexible, less structured criteria of liability that that paradigm engenders.
Friday, June 8, 2018
F. Patrick Hubbard & Evan Sobocinski have posted to SSRN Crashworthiness: The Collision of Sellers' Responsibility For Product Safety with Comparative Fault. The abstract provides:
Crashworthiness cases often involve the following issue: Should any wrongdoing by the plaintiff in causing the initial collision reduce or bar the plaintiff’s recovery for defective crashworthiness? Jurisdictions disagree on the answer to this issue. This disagreement results in large part from differing positions on two questions. First, should products liability law use duty rules to impose liability in a way that ensures efficient accident cost reduction or should it seek fairness through relatively unstructured jury allocations of liability based on fault? Second, in addressing the first issue, should for-profit corporations be viewed as: (1) “tools” to achieve human goals like efficient reduction of accident costs or (2) “persons” entitled to fair treatment in the same way as humans.
Relying on an analysis of doctrine, history, and policy, this Article argues (1) that for-profit corporations are tools, not persons with moral rights, and (2) because these corporations are not “moral persons”, the concern for efficient reduction of accident costs by internalizing the cost of injuries from product defects to corporations should prevail over a concern for “fairness” to these corporations in allocating accident costs. Therefore, because reducing manufacturers’ liability for crashworthiness also reduces the efficient internalization to manufacturers of the cost of their failure to provide cost-effective safety, the plaintiff’s role in causing the initial accident should be irrelevant to plaintiff’s claim for defective crashworthiness. This concern for internalization also supports the expansion of plaintiff’s rights in other areas of liability for defective vehicle design.
Monday, June 4, 2018
John Goldberg has posted to SSRN The Fiduciary Duty of Care. The abstract provides:
Fiduciary duties of care are at once familiar and strange. They partake of many of the characteristics of duties of care in other domains of private law, particularly tort law. But they also bear the distinctive marks of the fiduciary context. This chapter identifies two ways in which fiduciary duties of care tend to be distinct from tort duties of care. First, with some important exceptions, they are less demanding and less vigorously enforced. Second, breaches of the fiduciary duty of care can give rise to liability even if no injury results to the beneficiary. These distinctive features, I argue, reflect judicial efforts to harmonize the fiduciary’s duty of care with her duty of loyalty. As such, they are defensible, even if not in all respects justified.
Friday, June 1, 2018
Ronen Perry has posted to SSRN Tort Law. The abstract provides:
This book chapter systematically analyzes the fundamental principles of Israeli tort law. Given space limits it focuses on core areas, and does not profess to be comprehensive. Part II discusses fault based liability—intentional torts, negligence, and presumptions of negligence. Part III examines strict liability, including the special regimes pertaining to road accidents, defective products, and defamation, and the general tort of breach of statutory duty. Part IV discusses general defenses—particularly those deriving from the plaintiff’s fault or consent, and the special defenses afforded to the state, public authorities, and civil servants. Part V explains how the bilateral wrongdoer-victim model has been extended by allowing claims against or by third parties. Part VI examines the available remedies.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
John Goldberg & Ben Zipursky have posted to SSRN From Riggs v. Palmer to Shelley v. Kraemer: The Continuing Significance of the Law-Equity Distinction. The abstract provides:
This chapter begins with a sharp distinction between two kinds of judicial authority — the authority to apply law and to do equity. Plaintiffs who file suit on a claim of legal right assert an entitlement to recourse from the defendant, and to judicial assistance in obtaining it. By contrast, equitable claims request a court to exercise its discretion to block or modify the ordinary operation of the law, or to provide relief to which there is no legal entitlement. This distinction, we argue, sheds light on some of American law’s most famous and controversial decisions, including Riggs v. Palmer, Moore v. Regents, and Shelley v. Kraemer. Indeed, insofar as each reaches a defensible result, it is because it is an instance of a court doing equity rather than applying law. As our analysis of these and other decisions demonstrates, an appreciation of the law-equity distinction remains necessary for an adequate understanding of Anglo-American legal systems.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Mark Geistfeld has posted to SSRN Cost-Benefit Analysis Outside of Welfarism. The abstract provides:
Welfarism is the principle that the goodness of a social state is an increasing function of individual welfare and does not depend on anything else. As Gregory Keating convincingly argues in the lead article for this symposium, welfarism cannot account for important normative differences among different types of welfare losses or costs. Welfarism entails that all welfare losses and gains — regardless of their source — are to be rendered fungible and then compared within a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of the welfare changes. According to Keating, liberal egalitarian principles such as equal freedom or self-determination normatively distinguish bodily injuries from harms to liberty and economic interests. Bodily integrity and related forms of security are necessary conditions for the meaningful exercise of liberty, and that normative difference must be fairly accounted for by legal standards that govern significant risks threatening human health and safety. Hence Keating concludes that liberal egalitarian principles rule out CBA for setting such safety standards.
Despite its apparent logic, the idea that economic analysis is incompatible with or irrelevant to a rights-based principle of fairness is mistaken. Tort law shows why a legal system that protects the individual right to physical security can be usefully guided by the methodology of CBA and distributive economic analysis more generally. The governing principle of substantive equality determines the appropriate use of CBA, thereby framing the issues that can be usefully addressed by distributive economic analysis. Welfare does not have to be the master value in order to be relevant. As fully illustrated by the normative framework that Keating otherwise persuasively defends, CBA has an integral role outside of welfarism.
Monday, May 7, 2018
Mark Geistfeld has posted to SSRN The Regulatory Sweet Spot for Autonomous Vehicles. The abstract provides:
Although federal legislation governing highly automated vehicle (“HAV”) technology has yet to be enacted, developments so far strongly indicate that Congress will finally settle upon a framework that establishes the same roles for federal regulatory law and state tort law that now exist for conventional motor vehicles. Like the HAV bills pending in Congress, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 contains both an express preemption provision along with a saving clause, which says that “[c]ompliance with” a federal safety standard “does not exempt any person from any liability under common law.” These two provisions of the 1966 Act were harmonized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Geier v. American Honda Motor Company, which held that the saving clause embodies a legislative purpose to retain a meaningful role for tort law that can be displaced by federal regulations only as a matter of implied preemption. Because the pending federal HAV bills establish the same roles for federal regulatory law and state tort law that exist under the 1966 Act, the Court’s interpretation of that Act in Geier should extend to the HAV legislation.
As fully illustrated by the safety issue involving the reasonably safe performance of fully functioning autonomous vehicles, federal regulators meaningfully preserve state tort law when they base a federal safety regulation on the associated tort requirement enforced by the majority of states. By complying with this type of regulation, manufacturers would fully satisfy the associated tort obligations in these states, making regulatory compliance a complete defense. In the remaining minority of states, regulatory compliance would foreclose tort liability as a matter of implied preemption. This framework would uniformly regulate HAV technology across the national market while maximally preserving state tort law, thereby hitting the regulatory “sweet spot” that optimally solves the federalism problem.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Recent Publications of the Institute for European Tort Law and the European Centre of Tort and Insurance Law
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Chris Reinders Folmer, Pieter Desmet, and Willem H. Van Bloom have posted to SSRN Is it Really Not About the Money? Victim Needs Following Personal Injury and Property Loss and Their Relative Restoration Through Monetary Compensation and Apology. The abstract provides:
Tort law currently debates the value of facilitating apology, particularly in the domain of personal injury litigation, where victims’ immaterial needs are claimed to be neglected by monetary remedies. However, insight on its remedial value is limited, as extant evidence does not yet illuminate 1) which immaterial needs victims experience in tort situations, 2) how prominent these needs are relative to their material needs, 3) how monetary remedies may redress either need, 4) how apologies contribute beyond this, and 5) how this may impact case resolution (i.e., settlement decisions). We present two experimental studies that illuminate these questions by demonstrating that 1) tort victims experience several distinctive immaterial needs (for interpersonal treatment, responsibility taking, punishment, and closure); 2) these needs are relatively less prominent than victims’ material needs, and no more prominent in personal injury cases than following exclusively pecuniary loss; 3) greater monetary compensation enhances the satisfaction of both victims’ material and immaterial needs; 4) apologies further enhance their satisfaction beyond monetary compensation; 5) however, apology had little impact on settlement, which remained mostly contingent on monetary compensation. No indications were found that apologies are especially effective in personal injury cases (relative to exclusively pecuniary loss). Implications are provided for the role of apology in tort law.
Friday, April 20, 2018
Aaron Twerski has posted to SSRN The Demise of Drug Design Litigation: Death by Federal Preemption. The abstract provides:
For over half a century courts and commentators have disagreed as to the standards governing liability for drug design cases. In the last several years the United States Supreme Court decided two cases that will have a profound effect on whether drug design defect cases, in general, are federally preempted. In PLIVA v. Mensing and Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett, the Court preempted product liability actions for failure to warn and design defect against the manufacturers of generic drugs that met the FDA standard for the name-brand drug. In these cases the court made wide ranging statements that are applicable to name-brand drugs as well. This essay finds the Court’s reasoning in Bartlett erred in having misread New Hampshire law. At the same time its reasoning has opened a debate as to the scope of federal preemption for name-brand drugs. This essay argues that the sweeping language in these two cases leads to the conclusion that common law drug design cases in name-brand drugs will fall prey to federal preemption.
Friday, April 13, 2018
Cathy Sharkey has posted to SSRN Field Preemption: Opening the "Gates of Escape" from Tort Law. The abstract provides:
Richard Epstein remains a (lone) staunch defender of field preemption of state tort laws in drug failure-to-warn and design defect cases. Field preemption blocks state efforts to regulate within that field even where there is no explicit conflict with federal regulation.
Epstein’s position squares with his libertarian predilections. He has decried how concurrent federal and state regulation ratchets up governmental control so that the most intrusive regulator always wins. Moreover, his sharp critique of more moderate conflict preemption approaches, such as my “agency reference model” that harnesses key interpretive tools of administrative law to shed light on the preemption question, follows from his distrust of, and disdain for, the burgeoning administrative state.
Far less examined is the extent to which Epstein’s normative vision of tort law — and how far it deviates from the reality of the expansion of tort liability and rejection of contractual defenses since the 1960s — drives his fervent embrace of field preemption. Seen in this light, field preemption compensates for the systemic errors of tort law.
Framing Epstein’s case for field preemption in this way has two significant implications. First, his critiques of the “agency reference model” are overdetermined. No amount of evidence either that courts are moving in this direction or that they are equipped to scrutinize the administrative regulatory record in deciding whether a state law failure to warn or design defect claim should be foreclosed matters, if the first best position is wholesale eradication of these expansive product liability causes of action.
Second, whereas Epstein has rightly emphasized the high stakes when the issue is whether federal law will preempt state law causes of action that have vastly expanded since the adoption of the Restatement (Second) of Torts in 1966, we might invert the line of inquiry to examine the prospects for adoption of a far more restrictive tort liability standard for drug and device manufacturers, such as the 1998 Restatement (Third) of Products Liability § 6(c). That provision met with a chilly reception in the courts, and most (Epstein included) read this as evidence of the insatiable appetite for ever-expansive state tort liability. But it may well be that the rise of preemption of products liability claims — which incidentally took flight almost at the very same time as the promulgation of the Third Restatement — stunted the evolution of state tort law standards. If that is so, then field preemption is as much to blame for perpetuating the need for a gate of escape from poorly developed concepts of tort liability against drug and device manufacturers.
Monday, April 9, 2018
Ben Zipursky has posted to SSRN his Monsanto Lecture Online Defamation, Legal Concepts, and the Good Samaritan. The abstract provides:
Federal and state courts around the country – aided by academics on almost all sides – have completely misread the Communications Decency Act [“CDA”] § 230(c). This widely cited provision was designed to protect Internet service providers and certain Internet users from liability for the defamatory statements posted by others online. Congress did not want these actors to face a defamation-law equivalent of a duty to rescue strangers -- an affirmative duty to remove third parties’ defamatory statements about others. And it certainly did not want a service provider’s efforts to protect a stranger’s reputation to backfire by suddenly creating liability for everything the service provider failed to remove. So, like every state legislature has done for off-duty medical personnel who act as good Samaritans, Congress in 1996 created a law saying that good faith efforts to filter offensive or defamatory material do not create an affirmative duty to remove such material and do not open them up to liability. For good measure, the statute also laid down a basic rule that there is no liability simply for being the conduit of what others have posted or for failing to remove such postings from one’s own site, and it preempts any state law that does otherwise. The CDA thus ensures that states’ defamation law runs roughly parallel to duty-to-rescue doctrine in the common law of negligence as amended by good Samaritan statutes. Indeed, that is why “Good Samaritan” is in the title of CDA § 230(c).
Under the sway of a talented First Amendment bar and in an academic culture hostile to common law concepts, judges around the country have selected an entirely different and misguided interpretation of § 230(c). They read the statute as, in effect, an abrogation of libel law’s classic republication rule, which states that a person who republishes a defamatory statement is liable as if she were the one who first said it. According to the overwhelmingly dominant interpretation of courts today, once someone says something defamatory, anyone who reposts it enjoys complete immunity from all state and federal law, even if the republisher knows the statement to be false and defamatory. Those academics who have rejected this interpretation tend to swing to the other extreme, advocating that website owners who have notice of a defamatory posting should be liable for failure to remove it. This too misses the point of the statute’s text. Through a detailed examination of libel doctrine and a close analysis of the case (Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy) that generated the development of a protective federal statute, the article displays the correct reading of the statute and the importance of retaining a robust version of the republication rule online.
Monday, April 2, 2018
Ken Abraham & Bob Rabin have posted to SSRN Automated Vehicles and Manufacturer Responsibility for Accidents: A New Legal Regime for a New Era. The abstract provides:
The United States is on the verge of a new era in transportation, requiring a new legal regime. Over the coming decades, there will be a revolution in driving, as manually-driven cars are replaced by automated vehicles. There will then be a radically new world of auto accidents: most accidents will be caused by cars, not by drivers. Thus far, however, proposals for reform have failed to address with precision the distinctive issues that will be posed during the long transitional period in which automated vehicles share the roadway with conventional vehicles, or during the succeeding period that will be dominated by accidents between automated vehicles. A legal regime for this new era should more effectively and sensibly promote safety and provide compensation than the existing tort doctrines governing driver liability for negligence and manufacturer liability for product defects will be able to do. In a world of accidents dominated by automated vehicles, these doctrines will be anachronistic and obsolete. We present a proposal for a more effective system, adopting strict manufacturer responsibility for auto accidents. We call this system Manufacturer Enterprise Responsibility, or “MER.” In describing and developing our proposal for MER, we present the first detailed, extensively analyzed approach that would promote deterrence and compensation more effectively than continued reliance on tort in the coming world of accidents involving automated vehicles.
Friday, March 30, 2018
Al Calnan has posted to SSRN Torts as Systems. The abstract provides:
This article offers a science-based answer to an old philosophical question, “What is the essential nature of torts?” Building on the “process theory” of torts and my own general theory of “jurisilience,” the proposed answer emerges from a neglected natural fact: torts is a complex system. Like all such systems, torts is both shaped by and composed of various subsystems. Mankind’s biological, neuro-psychological, and socio-cultural subsystems create selfish, social, and ratio-moral conflicts that influence torts’ history, content, and practice. This inner tension also accounts for torts’ adversarial structure, which includes three systems in one—a dispute resolution system, a lawmaking system, and the social value system at large.
The discordant form of these features reveals torts’ true function. To manage complexity, torts continuously coordinates its friction points, using its trilateral subsystems to harmonize its disparate goals and values and reconcile society’s interpersonal disputes.
Though tort law constrains this coordinative process, it does not control it. Rather, like every other complex system, torts’ coordinative process is decentralized, spontaneous, and synergistic. This can be seen horizontally across tort theories, as “core” distinctions among intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability progressively erode and transform. It also is evident within each theory’s “indispensable” elements, which are constantly adjusted, informed, or blurred by other key concepts. These emergent patterns even extend vertically in the development of important fields like pure emotional distress, premises liability, and strict products liability, where system dynamics can take different trajectories and produce unplanned and unpredictable results.
In this sense, torts is not a stable concept that can be comprehended solely by studying its prominent components, as tort theorists have long supposed. Instead, it is really a false façade for the turbulent vortex of conflict and change animating the complex systems beneath.
Thursday, March 29, 2018
Ken Abraham and Ted White have posted to SSRN The Puzzle of Dignitary Torts. The abstract provides:
In recent years there has been much greater legal attention paid to aspects of dignity that previously have been ignored or treated with actual hostility, especially in constitutional law and public law generally. But private law also plays an important role. In particular, certain forms of tort liability are imposed in order to protect individual dignity of various sorts, and to compensate for invasions of individual dignity. Defamation, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and even false imprisonment fall into this category. Despite the growing importance of dignity, this value has received very little self-conscious or express attention in the tort cases or torts scholarship. The absence of a robustly-articulated conception of the interest in dignity that tort law protects is a puzzle. Why have notions of dignity and of dignitary torts been little more than labels, reflecting a value that has gone unanalyzed and undebated, despite its obvious and growing importance? The answers to these questions lie in the structure of the common law of torts, in the history of twentieth-century tort law scholarship, in the jurisprudence of doctrinal boundaries, and – perhaps surprisingly – in developments in constitutional law during the last four decades of the twentieth century. In the first analysis of the dignitary torts as a whole in half a century, this Article explores the puzzle of the dignitary torts. It argues that these torts have been under-theorized because of the very nature of the common law system, which poses a powerful obstacle to any doctrinal reorientation of tort law toward the understanding or creation of a unified species of dignitary torts. The law of torts may be fully capable of protecting the forms of dignity that our world increasingly recognizes and honors, but it turns out that it must do so in the same manner that it has always protected the interests that are central to our values, cause-of-action by cause-of-action.
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Doug Rendleman has posted to SSRN Rehabilitating the Nuisance Injunction to Protect the Environment. The abstract provides:
The Trump administration has reversed the federal government’s role of protecting the environment. The reversal focuses attention on states’ environmental capacity. This article advocates more vigorous state environmental tort remedies for nuisance and trespass.
An injunction is the superior remedy in most successful environmental litigation because it orders correction and improvement. Two anachronistic barriers to an environmental injunction are the New York Court of Appeals’s decision, Boomer v. Atlantic Cement, and Calabresi and Melamed’s early and iconic law-and-economics article, One View of the Cathedral. This article examines and criticizes both because, by subordinating the injunction to money damages, they undervalue public health and environmental protection and militate against effective private-law remedies for environmental torts.
This article advocates flexible and pragmatic common-law techniques instead of doctrinal law-and-economics analysis. Moreover, behavioral economists’ studies have undermined and qualified many law-and-economics theories. In addition to arguing for more and better injunctions, this article criticizes the law-and-economics mindset that nuisance-trespass parties’ post-injunction negotiation will convert an injunction into an excessive money settlement. It also shows that the Cathedral article’s vocabulary and four-rule organization are both too long and too short as well as confusing and misleading.
This article maintains that courts’ private-law environmental injunctions should utilize judicial techniques from public-law structural injunctions in what it calls the standards injunction. In addition, courts ought to broaden nuisance and trespass plaintiffs access to punitive damages and restitution. The author hopes that this argument for more and more detailed private-law injunctions and remedies will percolate upward to augment environmental protection leading to more effective private- and public-law remedies against environmental torts and other environmental violations including global warming, and climate change.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Marc Ginsberg has posted to SSRN Informed Consent: No Longer Just What the Doctor Ordered? Revisited. The abstract provides:
As the law of informed consent has developed and courts have recently considered different informed consent issues unrelated to the typical required disclosure. In light of these decisions, I have concluded that it is time to revisit the unconventional and other selected topics of informed consent.
Monday, March 19, 2018