TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Friday, October 30, 2020

Three by Nolan

Donal Nolan has posted three pieces to SSRN.  First, Assumption of Responsibility:  Four Questions; the abstract provides:

Although the assumption of responsibility concept pervades the English law of negligence, its meaning remains hazy and its significance contested. While the courts employ the language of assumption of responsibility on a regular basis, no clear judicial definition of it has emerged. And commentators are divided as to whether assumption of responsibility is a distinct ground on which liability is imposed, or merely a foil for policy arguments ¬– or for another, more general, test for the recognition of duties of care. Matters are complicated by the fact that assumption of responsibility does not fit neatly within the orthodox categories of ‘tort’ and ‘contract’, but hovers uncertainly between the two. The aim of this article is to try to bring some clarity to the controversies surrounding assumption of responsibility. Four questions frame the analysis. What does assumption of responsibility mean? When does it matter? Why do we need it? And where does it belong? Although the answers to some of these questions are necessarily tentative, at least one conclusion should become clear, namely that assumption of responsibility is a meaningful and distinctive basis on which to impose negligence liability.

Second, The Essence of Private Nuisance; the abstract provides:

One meaning of the word ‘essence’ is the feature or set of features that defines a thing. My claim in this chapter is that the essence of the tort of private nuisance in this sense is interference with (or impairment of) the usability of the claimant’s land. Although this claim is merely a clarification of the orthodox definition or conception of the tort, the clarification turns out to be significant. Furthermore, while this central defining feature of private nuisance is well-established, it has been the subject of very little sustained analysis, and one of the aims of this chapter is to begin the task of plugging that gap. And finally, the orthodox conception of private nuisance has come under attack recently, and there is a danger that without a robust defense of it the coherence and utility of the tort will be compromised. In this chapter I seek to provide such a defense.

The chapter is divided into three main parts. In the first part, I show how orthodox it is to define private nuisance by reference to interference with the use and enjoyment of land, seek to clarify this defining idea as concerned with the abstract usability of the land, and consider the implications of this analysis for the scope of the private nuisance action. In the second part, I summarize and then critique a recent challenge to the orthodox conception of the tort, which I call the ‘physical invasion’ view. And in the final part, I briefly consider some of the implications for property theory of the orthodox conception of private nuisance, properly understood.

Finally, Tort and Public Law:  Overlapping Categories?; the abstract provides:

This article explores the relationship between tort law and public law as legal categories. The principal argument of the article is that certain aspects of modern tort law are best understood as falling within public law, rather than private law. I begin my analysis with the two tort doctrines that seem to me most clearly to fall within public law, namely the tort of misfeasance in public office and the availability of exemplary damages in cases of oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional action by servants of the government. I then go on to look at a more ambivalent doctrine, the tort of malicious prosecution. Finally, I consider the implications of conceiving of these various doctrines as part and parcel of public law, rather than private law. It follows from my analysis that there is no clear boundary between ‘tort law’ and ‘public law’, but rather a degree of overlap between the two categories. There are lessons here for both private lawyers and public lawyers. The lesson for private lawyers is that attempts to reconcile these doctrines with general private law principles are misguided. The lesson for public lawyers is that closer examination of these doctrines may further understanding of the nature and purposes of public law.

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