Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Announcement: Publication of Materials on Tort Reform, 2nd Edition (2017) by Andrew F. Popper, Bronfman Professor of Law, American University, Washington College of Law
Early in July, West Publishing released Materials on Tort Reform, 2nd Edition (2017) by Andrew F. Popper. The goal for this edition is very much the same as it was for the First Edition: a supplemental text for torts classes that provides essays, articles, cases, and other materials allowing for consideration of all sides of the tort reform debate. In the quest to cut the Gordian knot of tort reform, the hope is to provide all points of view in an accessible and compelling manner.
While tort law has not changed dramatically since this book was first published, the tort reform debate has shifted. In the period preceding the first edition, tort reform was a battle over substantive tort law, joint and several liability, admissibility of certain evidence—in other words, issues pertaining directly to accountability and liability. Typical tort reform proposals involved limitations on non-economic loss, standards for punitive damages, changes in the definition of design defect, the government standards and state of the art defense, and more.
For the last seven years, while the above topics remain in play, focus has broadened to include fundamental procedural mechanisms that affect, enhance, or limit access to courts. In addition, there has been an undeniable push to move tort cases away from state courts and into federal court. Broadly speaking, those fighting for these changes contend that tort law, as currently practiced, produces uncertain and unfair results.
Those opposing these changes assert that injured people are entitled to access to justice in their own states, before judges from their own states, with basic decisions made by a jury of their peers at a local level, i.e., federalism. Broadly, they assert that this is a struggle to preserve the rights of injured consumers to a fair and just legal system. What is at risk, they contend, is a level playing field where damages imposed on those who produce dangerous products or provide inappropriate professional services are sufficient to make whole those harmed and deter others from similar misconduct.
Both positions have multiple glimmers of legitimacy, a fact that seems obvious to all except those involved in the fight.
Through commentary, essays on both sides of the battle, articles, interest group papers, and cases, this text is designed to help students comprehend this 40-year struggle. Does the tort system yield inefficient and counter-productive results (e.g., a less competitive market and higher prices), or is it that prized legal regime its supporters contend, preserving fragile rights of injured consumers?