Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rough Justice and the Problem of Value in Tort Law

Following on Prof. Erichson's footsteps, I have just posted a draft  article entitled "Rough Justice and the Problem of Value in Tort Law."  You can find it on SSRN and bepress.

This article can be read in dialogue with Erichson and Zipursky's argument against lawyer empowerment in the mass tort context (see their article "Consent versus Closure" described in the post below).  Their baseline is the individual case which ostensibly is run by the litigant as compared to the mass tort context in which lawyers are empowered to determine outcomes.  I demonstrate that in the individual case lawyers are setting the price of settlement with reference to other cases without rigorous methodology, leading to inequity.  In the mass tort context, we have the possibility to adopt transparent, rigorous methods that ensure horizontal equity, a central principle of procedural justice.

This article is also a response to concerns about variability in jury verdicts. I have blogged about these issues here and here and refer readers to Tim Lytton's post on Tort Profs Blog and Byron Stier's work on "Jackpot Justice." We have very different views on what variability in tort verdicts really means!

Below is the abstract of my piece.  If you read the draft and have comments, please send them along.

This Essay argues the counterintuitive position that in our tort system, individual justice is rougher than justice on a mass scale. The reason for this is that mass tort cases can be resolved collectively using rigorous transparent social science methods that can ensure equal treatment of similarly situated litigants. Individual justice, by contrast, allows cases to be resolved in a largely hidden system of comparative valuation using loose methods that are unlikely to result in like cases being treated alike. To do justice courts must use rigorous, transparent methods of case valuation.

In addition to this key insight, this Essay makes two contributions. First, it demonstrates a pragmatic way of thinking about procedural justice by measuring existing procedures against widely recognized principles. In this case, I compare sampling procedures with principles of equality, fairness and distributive justice. Second, it uncovers a pernicious assumption that has been heretofore ignored by scholars: contrary to popular belief, there is no objective way to monetize injuries. All justice in tort cases is rough justice. This is the problem of value in tort law. The solution to this problem is properly administered sampling procedures.



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