Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Ori Herstein has posted to SSRN Legal Luck. The abstract provides:
Explaining the notion of "legal luck" and exploring its justification. Focusing on how legal luck relates to "moral luck," legal causation and negligence, and to civil and criminal liability.
Friday, February 16, 2018
Lauren Miller (Student, Maryland) has posted to SSRN Taking a Chance on Patient Life: Suicidal Patients, Involuntary Admissions, and Physician Immunity in Maryland. The abstract provides:
Maryland jurisprudence exempts from liability any physician that elects not to involuntarily admit a mentally ill patient into treatment. This article explores through both statutory and case law jurisdictional differences in the duty owed by physicians to their foreseeably suicidal patients. These findings are applied to Chance v. Bon Secours Hospital and used to advocate against expanding statutory immunity to physicians that recklessly release involuntarily admitted patients from treatment before improvements to their mental health are achieved.
Monday, February 5, 2018
Bob Rabin has posted to SSRN Accommodating Tort Law: Alternative Remedies for Workplace Injuries. The abstract provides:
In this paper, I explore the often-contested territory that tort occupies within the more expansive domain of worker’s compensation. This exploration reveals that, far from being substitutes, tort and worker’s compensation are, in fact, deeply and inextricably joined: A complementarity that underscores the trade-offs intrinsic to each system. Whatever the source and scale of harm, the incentives to pursue a third-party tort suit—in light of the bar on a direct claim against the employer—are straightforward. Worker’s compensation no-fault benefits feature stringent caps on economic loss beyond medical expenses, and bar non-economic recovery altogether. By contrast, tort provides the prospect of recovery for total wage loss, as well as pain and suffering, which is considerably more remunerative than worker’s compensation benefits—particularly in the case of more serious injuries or workplace-related fatalities.
These tort claims, in turn, can raise a related question that again demonstrates the inextricable tie between worker’s compensation and tort: Whether the third-party product manufacturer, if responsible in tort, can recover a portion of the tort award through a contribution claim against the employer, despite the ban on a direct employee tort claim against the employer. Correlatively, there is the prospect of the employer seeking to recapture worker’s compensation benefits paid to the employee through a subrogation claim against the third-party tort defendant.
These intersecting claims most frequently involve accidental harm in the workplace, rather than intentional misconduct or reckless disregard for the safety of workers. But in the latter cases of egregious employer misconduct, most states recognize an exception from the bar on tort recoveries. As a consequence, these are situations where tort recovery may be a substitute for worker’s compensation rather than standing side-by-side with tort, as in accidental harm cases. Similarly, Title VII claims for sexual harassment in the workplace stand as a distinct tort-type source of recovery entirely apart from the worker’s compensation system.
Monday, January 22, 2018
Richard Lewis has posted to SSRN Humanity in Tort: Does Personality Affect Personal Injury Litigation?. The abstract provides:
This article examines whether the character of people involved in personal injury claims affects their outcome irrespective of the legal rules. For example, does the personality or background of the litigants or their lawyers influence whether an action succeeds and how much damages are then paid?
A rise in the number of claims is noted here as part of a contested ‘compensation culture’ in personal injury. In a demographic analysis, the article identifies typical claimants and the injuries from which they suffer. Claims have been gathered in increasing numbers by law firms in response to market pressures encouraging them to process minor injury cases in bulk. The firms have changed their structure and created ‘settlement mills’ where there may be little scope for individuals to affect the routine processing of small claims. By contrast, in more serious injury cases character and personality are more likely to make a difference. These findings are suggested by the author’s empirical study of the views of lawyers on the operation of the claims system: practitioners who have been interviewed are given voice here.
The article challenges traditional perspectives of tort where it is often implicit that claims are resolved only in court on the basis of textbook rules on liability and damages. There has been a failure to take account of other factors which may influence both the settlement of claims and the few cases that go to trial. In this wider context the article forms part of a literature revealing that the operation of the tort system in practice differs markedly from that in theory. It calls into question those philosophies of tort liability which fail to consider how claims are actually determined.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Martha Chamallas has posted to SSRN her contribution to the JTL symposium on the Restatement (Third) of Intentional Torts to Persons, The Elephant in the Room: Sidestepping the Affirmative Consent Debate in the Restatement (Third) of Intentional Torts to Persons. The abstract provides:
In contemporary debates about legal responsibility for sexual misconduct, the status of “affirmative consent” is front and center. Most often associated with the campus rape crisis and the enforcement of Title IX by colleges and universities, affirmative consent places responsibility on individuals who initiate sex to secure the affirmative permission of their partners before engaging in sexual conduct. Going beyond “no means no,” affirmative consent is best captured by the slogan “only yes means yes” and aims to protect those sexual assault victims who react passively or silently in the face of sexual aggression, even though they do not desire to have sex and would not have initiated the sexual activity if they had been given the choice. The criminal law in most states has not yet caught up with these developments and has continued to require either a showing of “force” on the part of the defendant or proof of a verbal objection on the part of the victim.
Given its prominence, one might expect affirmative consent to emerge as a central issue in the revision of the Restatement (Third)’s provisions on consent.
Instead, affirmative consent makes an appearance only briefly in the Restatement's commentary and has not affected the core black letter statements of the law of consent. Although purporting to be neutral, the approach of the Restatement (Third) is incompatible with affirmative consent, both in the Restatement's definitions of actual and apparent consent and in its determination to assign the burden of proof to the plaintiff instead of the defendant.
Because there is no controlling precedent that would prevent the Restatement (Third) from embracing affirmative consent, the Restatement (Third) is free to follow the Title IX model and incorporate affirmative consent into the body of tort law. This article makes the case for adopting affirmative consent in sexual misconduct tort cases, even if the criminal law in any given jurisdiction continues to apply a more defendant-oriented consent rules.
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Don Gifford has posted to SSRN Technological Triggers to Tort Revolutions: Steam Locomotives, Autonomous Vehicles, and Accident Compensation. The abstract provides:
Waves of technological change explain the most important transformations of American tort law. In this Article, I begin by examining historical instances of this linkage. Following the Industrial Revolution, for example, machines, no longer humans and animals, powered production. With greater force, locomotives and other machines inflicted far more severe injuries. These dramatic technological changes prompted the replacement of the preexisting strict liability tort standard with the negligence regime. Similarly, later technological changes caused the enactment of workers’ compensation statutes, the implementation of automobile no-fault systems in some states and routinized automobile settlement practices in others that resemble a no-fault system, and the adoption of “strict” products liability. From this history, I derive a model explaining how technological innovation alters (1) the frequency of personal injuries, (2) the severity of such injuries, (3) the difficulty of proving claims, and (4) the new technology’s social utility. These four factors together determine the choice among three liability standards: strict liability, negligence, and no-fault liability with limited damages. I then apply this model to the looming technological revolution in which autonomous vehicles, robots, and other Artificial Intelligence machines will replace human decision-making as well as human force. I conclude that the liability system governing autonomous vehicles is likely to be one similar to the workers’ compensation system in which the victim is relieved of the requirement of proving which party acted tortiously and caused the accident.
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Cathy Sharkey has posted to SSRN Cutting in on the Chevron Two-Step. The abstract provides:
This Article aims to address an all-too familiar scenario: a federal agency, under the guise of supposed legal interpretation of a statute, earns automatic judicial deference for what is, in reality, its policy-based interpretation—a scenario that, I argue, is translating into courts' insufficient oversight over agency action. Where an agency effectively uses Chevron Step One legal statutory interpretation arguments to justify its implicitly policy-based interpretation at Step Two, judicial oversight at Step Two is weakened, if not annulled.
This Article advocates incorporation of State Farm into the Chevron framework. Put simply, State Farm’s demand for “reasoned decision-making” from agencies mitigates Chevron's mandate for deference to agency statutory interpretations. The Chevron-State Farm model highlights the agency expertise rationale that infuses the implied delegation rationale for agency deference, particularly at Step Two. As a practical matter, the model expands the domain of State Farm, widening the scope of agency rules subject to hard look review, and, further, aims to increase the stringency of re-view. Perhaps most significantly, where the Chevron interpretive issue arises between private parties when the agency is not a party and litigants accordingly have no recourse to direct State Farm challenge to the rulemaking, the model would open the door to an indirect State Farm challenge.
The Article explores how this new doctrinal approach, one of hard look review at Chevron Step Two, will affect courts and, most of all, affect agency decisionmaking. Moreover, this particular form of Chevron retreat—widening the space for the application of State Farm—is fundamentally distinct from, and preferable to, setting Chevron aside. Whereas knocking down the Chevron pillar deals a blow to over-exuberant regulators and promises to stem the tide of over-regulation of the economy and health and safety, heightened judicial scrutiny of the Chevron-State Farm variety will force the agency’s hand in the context of deregulation as well.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Donal Nolan has posted 2 pieces on nuisance to SSRN, both of which are book chapters. First, 'A Tort Against Land': Private Nuisance as a Property Tort. The abstract provides:
The thesis of this chapter is that private nuisance can only properly be understood as a tort which protects rights in land, and that, understood in this way, it is a thoroughly coherent cause of action. I begin by introducing this ‘property tort analysis’ of private nuisance and by providing a definition of the tort. The bulk of the chapter is then devoted to showing that the central doctrines of private nuisance law are consistent with the property tort analysis. In the remainder of the chapter, I look at the relationship between private nuisance and trespass to land, identify some sources of confusion which have served to obscure the underlying coherence of private nuisance and consider the implications of the property tort analysis for the traditional distinction between property and obligations. I finish off by making some more general observations about the value of a rights-based analysis of private law.
Next, Nuisance, Planning and Regulation: The Limits of Statutory Authority. The abstract provides:
In this chapter, I examine the defence of statutory authority in the law of private nuisance. I argue that if we let our guard down, the de facto extension of the defence could put at risk the continued vitality of private nuisance as a cause of action. Recent developments in the law of private nuisance have threatened in effect to extend the defence of statutory authority to encompass the defendant’s compliance with regulatory regimes governing his activity, and at least some instances in which planning permission has been granted for the use of land causing the alleged nuisance. I argue that there are fundamental objections to these de facto extensions of statutory authority, and that they are inconsistent with core features or aspects of that defence. The core message of the chapter is summed up by Tony Weir’s characteristically pithy remark that ‘administrators cannot authorise torts’.
Saturday, December 30, 2017
George Conk has posted to SSRN Deadly Dust: Occupational Health and Safety as a Driving Force in Workers' Compensation Law and the Development of Tort Doctrine and Practice. The abstract provides:
Many observers, looking back at the early twentieth century’s creation by states of the workers compensation laws have seen a grand bargain. In this view tort remedies were compromised for the certainty of more modest scheduled statutory benefits. This study argues that the tort laws were a major victory for labor. Workers gained the right to medical treatment, temporary total disability benefits, and permanent disability benefits. The medical benefits and temporary disability were prompt and reliable for all work related accidental injuries. The loss of the tort remedy against the employer was of little significance since compensation via tort was highly uncertain. Further the right to sue third parties in tort was preserved – and enabled to some degree by the workers compensation benefits received.
But occupational diseases were excluded until pressure by labor and pro labor interests achieved reforms. Much of the driving force was the recognition of pneumoconiosis – particularly silicosis. The granite cutters of Vermont spurred studies which demonstrate the limits of the germ theory of disease and identified the deadly granite dust as the cause of lung disease. Many states broadened their definitions of occupational disease.
Asbestos related disease – particularly the form of pneumoconiosis known as asbestosis advanced the science of pulmonary disease. The landmark studies by Irving Selikoff of morbidity and mortality of insulation workers created a body of evidence that supported the massive wave of third party asbestos litigation. The asbestos epidemic litigation advanced the doctrines of strict product liability law, drove courts to advance management of “mass torts” via multi-district litigation, and increased the competence of courts to deal with epidemiological and other forms of scientific evidence of disease causation.
Friday, December 8, 2017
Avidan Cover has posted to SSRN Revisionist Municipal Liability. The abstract provides:
The current constitutional torts system under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 affords little relief to victims of government wrongdoing. Victims of police brutality seeking accountability and compensation from local police departments find their remedies severely limited because the municipal liability doctrine demands plaintiffs meet near-impossible standards of proof relating to policies and causation.
The article provides a revisionist historical account of the Supreme Court’s municipal liability doctrine’s origins. Most private litigants’ claims for damages against cities or police departments do not implicate the doctrine’s early federalism concerns over protracted federal judicial interference with local governance. Meanwhile the federal government imposes extensive reforms on local police departments through the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, 42 U.S.C. § 14141. The resulting system of bifurcated municipal liability for police misconduct ignores history. It permits government-initiated systemic, injunctive relief claims to flow readily, but effectively bans individual victims’ discrete damages claims.
The article proposes making it easier to sue local governments for police brutality. Reducing the standard for damages relief does not offend federalism principles and realizes objectives critical to the constitutional remedial system: compensation, trust, vindication of rights, and appropriate assignment of responsibility. The article proposes a remedial scheme authorizing civil actions for police brutality victims against local governments for (1) a pattern or practice of local government police misconduct, and (2) isolated instances where a local police department lacks a policy, of which there is national consensus by other local departments that the policy is necessary to prevent a particular constitutional harm. The proposal also expands the potential for individual officer liability when the local police department has a specific policy in place aimed at preventing wrongdoing that the officer ignores.
Monday, December 4, 2017
Roisin Aine Costello has posted to SSRN Reviving Rylands: How the Doctrine Could Be Used to Claim Compensation for Environmental Damages Caused by Fracking. The abstract provides:
Contemporary societies are characterized by complex interdependence, with industrial activity increasingly having the potential to cause effects beyond local and national borders. Courts have previously illustrated that liability for injurious action must lie with the individual who created the risk of damage under the common law rule of Rylands v. Fletcher. Having fallen out of favour in the twentieth century, this article proposes a re-articulation of the rule to cover situations in modern society in which invasive methods are used in the extraction of volatile fuels from the earth, specifically in the case of ‘fracking’. The article examines recent rulings from the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as precedent from the United Kingdom and Ireland to establish the manner in which the rule of Rylands v. Fletcher might be successfully rearticulated in the context of contemporary common law jurisdictions – specifically focusing on Ireland – as a means for redressing environmental damage.
Monday, November 20, 2017
Chad Marzen has posted to SSRN The Pollution Exclusion and Carbon Monoxide. The abstract provides:
Approximately 400 individuals die each year and an additional 4,000 individuals are hospitalized annually in the United States due to unintentional carbon monoxide exposure. For the past several decades, insurance policies have generally included a pollution exclusion. This article is intended to contribute to the literature by examining pollution exclusion cases that involved carbon monoxide exposure.
A majority of courts uphold the validity of the pollution exclusion in insurance policies to bar coverage for personal injuries resulting from carbon monoxide. The first part of this article discusses the majority rule and the various arguments courts have utilized to uphold the exclusion. A minority rule has also emerged that the pollution exclusion does not apply to cases involving carbon monoxide. The second part of this article examines the arguments courts have utilized in ruling that carbon monoxide is not a “pollutant.”
In the wake of conflicting guidance from the courts on the applicability of the pollution exclusion in cases of carbon monoxide exposure, the final part of this article proposes that as a matter of public policy states amend their respective insurance codes to require that insurance policies specifically provide coverage for personal injuries involving carbon monoxide exposure.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Bob Rabin has posted to SSRN Pathways to Auto Safety: Assessing the Role of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The abstract provides:
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to promulgate and enforce vehicle safety regulations, issue vehicle and component recalls, and conduct research and gather data to support its safety mission. Published twenty-five years ago, Jerry Mashaw & David Harfst’s study, The Struggle for Auto Safety, offered a comprehensive critique of the agency’s performance through its early decades. The authors concluded that after an initial flurry of important rulemaking activity, extending through 1974, NHTSA’s record on the rulemaking front was marked by failed opportunities. Essentially, they concluded that the agency abandoned meaningful rulemaking after its early years and took a path of lesser resistance — resistance, in particular, from Congress, the courts and the auto industry — relying on inefficacious recalls, rather than rulemaking, as its principal regulatory strategy.
In this chapter of a collection of essays celebrating the career of Prof. Mashaw, I reassess their critique twenty-five years later. Reviewing NHTSA’s rulemaking and recall activities since 1990, I conclude that Mashaw and Harfst’s criticisms of NHTSA’s rulemaking performance remain largely valid. I am somewhat more optimistic, however, with regard to the potential for a robust recall program to improve auto safety—despite the agency’s substandard response, discussed in detail in my essay, to the GM ignition switch engine shutdown cases.
I surmise that if NHTSA were to receive adequate resources, adopt the necessary political will, and work towards a culture of “skeptical receptiveness” in its approach to the auto industry — undeniably big ifs — its recall program could become a vital and effective regulatory tool. To provide context, I also discuss the complementary roles that tort and no-fault liability might play.
Friday, November 3, 2017
Ellen Wertheimer & Mark Rahdert have posted to SSRN The Force Awakens: Tincher, Section 402A and the Third Restatement in Pennsylvania. The abstract provides:
In Tincher v. Omega Flex (2014), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reached two important decisions regarding Pennsylvania product liability law. First, it overruled an earlier decision, Azzarello v. Black Brothers, Inc., which had mandated a bifurcated process for assessing product defects that required trial judges first to assess whether a product was potentially unreasonably dangerous before submitting the question of whether it was defective to the jury. Second, it rejected efforts by some Justices, federal courts and the defense bar to have the Court adopt the negligence-oriented principles of the American Law Institute’s Third Restatement of Torts: Product Liability. Instead, the Court reaffirmed Pennsylvania’s commitment to the strict product liability principles set in Restatement (Second) Section 402A. This article assesses the implications of the Tincher decision for the future development of product liability law in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. It explains the foundational principles of strict product liability that the decision affirms, discusses the Court’s establishment of a composite consumer expectation and risk-utility test for determining defects in product design, defends the Court’s commitment to modest and incremental common-law adjudication, and discusses the development of jury charges that are faithful to Tincher’s approach. The article also takes issue with attempts by the product liability defense bar to push post-Tincher adjudication toward a negligence-based framework that is inconsistent with the Court’s reaffirmation in Tincher of a doctrine of strict product liability.
This article will be published in Volume 27 of the Widener Law Journal. It is currently in draft form and should not be quoted without the permission of its authors.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Keith Hylton has posted to SSRN Deterrence and Aggregate Litigation. The abstract provides:
This paper examines the deterrence properties of aggregate litigation and class actions, with an emphasis on positive value claims. In the multiple victim scenario with positive value claims, in the absence of the class action device, the probability that an individual victim will bring suit falls toward zero with geometric decay as the number of victims increases. The reason is that the incentive to free ride increases with the number of victims. Deterrence does not collapse but is degraded. Undercompliance is observed, which worsens as the number of victims increases. Compliance is never socially optimal, and the shortfall from optimality increases with the number of victims. These results, which continue to hold even if victims anticipate being joined in a single forum, suggest a more nuanced and potentially more robust justification for the class action than has hitherto been provided. Implications for collusive settlements of class action litigation are discussed.
Monday, October 30, 2017
Nancy Moore has posted to SSRN her contribution to the JTL symposium on the Restatement of Intentional Torts to Persons. Entitled Restating Intentional Torts: Problems of Process and Substance in the ALI's Third Restatement of Torts, the abstract provides:
The American Law Institute’s Third Restatement of Torts was initially conceived as a series of separate projects, each with its own Reporters. From 1998 through 2010, the ALI completed and published three different segments: Products Liability, Apportionment of Liability, and Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm. Initially, the ALI did not intend to restate the intentional torts, believing that the Second Restatement’s treatment of these torts was clear and largely authoritative. It was ultimately persuaded that there were numerous unresolved issues that needed to be addressed. As a result, it authorized a new project on Intentional Torts---a project that is currently ongoing. Rather than applaud or critique the specific choice the Reporters are making, I have chosen to discuss two broader concerns regarding the project. The first concern is that the piecemeal nature of assembling all the separate projects of the Third Restatement of Torts (including the review and adoption of different sections within Intentional Torts) has made the Intentional Torts Reporters’ task more difficult than it should have been and may contribute to an overall product that is flawed in important respects, primarily because of inconsistencies that cannot easily be corrected. The second concern is that the Intentional Torts Reporters have too often lost sight of the conceptual distinctions between intentional and nonintentional torts. Although I agree that these conceptual distinctions should not have driven the basic organization of the project, as was once suggested, I argue that the Reporters are making doctrinal decisions that further blur, rather than clarify, the boundaries between the intentional torts and other torts, primarily negligence.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
John Oberdiek has posted to SSRN the Introduction to Imposing Risk: A Normative Framework. The abstract provides:
This is the Introduction to Imposing Risk: A Normative Framework (Oxford University Press, 2017).
Human life has always been shadowed by risks like disease and natural disaster, but modern life is distinctively risky. In the first instance, today, risk utterly permeates life. The sheer variety and scope of risks that attend industrialized and industrializing societies are unique to them. Our agrarian and geographically dispersed ancestors did not face the risks that accompany the use of automobiles and high-speed transit, the mass production of goods and widespread use of chemicals, vast construction and public works projects, or the countless other risks to which we are exposed in our everyday lives. In light of the fact that risk is ubiquitous in modern life, it should be no surprise that sociologists have called ours a “risk society,” focused on containing the risks that modernization itself has created. This sociological fact implies a normative one that, in conjunction with the pervasiveness of risk, explains why modern life is distinctively risky: the risks we now face are morally cognizable. For they are, in the main, subject to our control – indeed, they are typically our creation. The risks that define modern life are therefore our responsibility. As they are largely imposed by people on people, they call for moral assessment. This book addresses some of the central questions stimulated by our contemporary practices of imposing risk.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Bob Rabin has posted to SSRN Dov Fox on Reproductive Negligence: A Commentary. The abstract provides:
This commentary offers three basic observations about Professor Dov Fox’s novel and illuminating conception of a new tort of reproductive negligence. In Reproductive Negligence, Professor Fox identifies three scenarios, categorically: imposition of unwanted parenthood, deprivation of wanted parenthood, and confounding of efforts to have expected traits. Drawing on these circumstances, Fox argues the case for a newly recognized tort of reproductive negligence that embraces all of these categories.
My commentary proceeds as follows. From a historical perspective, Part I attempts to locate his claim for recognition of a more expansive version of recovery for stand-alone intangible harm in currently accepted tort duties. From a liability perspective, while finding much to be admired in this proposed new theory of recovery, Part II questions whether it is workable to view reproductive negligence as a single pathway rather than three distinct routes to recognizing new tort rights. And finally, from a damages perspective, Part III draws on expansive themes in other areas of recovery for intangible harm to suggest additional foundational support for Fox’s effort to push the frontier of recovery for intangible harm into new territory.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Scott Hershovitz has posted to SSRN Treating Wrongs as Wrongs: An Expressive Argument for Tort Law. The abstract provides:
The idea that criminal punishment carries a message of condemnation is as commonplace as could be. Indeed, many think that condemnation is the mark of punishment, distinguishing it from other sorts of penalties or burdens. But for all that torts and crimes share in common, nearly no one thinks that tort has similar expressive aims. And that is unfortunate, as the truth is that tort is very much an expressive institution, with messages to send that are different, but no less important, than those conveyed by the criminal law.
In this essay, I argue that tort liability expresses the judgment that the defendant wronged the plaintiff. And I explain why it is important to have an institution that expresses that judgment. I argue that we need ways of treating wrongs as wrongs, so that we can vindicate the social standing of victims. Along the way, I consider the continuity between tort and revenge, and I suggest a new way of thinking about corrective justice and the role that tort plays in dispensing it. I conclude by sketching an agenda for tort reform that would improve tort’s ability to serve its expressive function.
I'm happy to say the piece will be published in issue 2017:2 of the Journal of Tort Law.
Monday, October 23, 2017