TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Southwestern Law School

Friday, October 22, 2021

Bublick on China's New Tort Law

Ellie Bublick has posted to SSRN China's New Tort Law:  The Promise of Reasonable Care.  The abstract provides:

This paper enters the unfolding dialogue about Chinese and American tort law. The paper addresses some similarities and differences between the written provisions of China's Tort Liability Law and U.S. tort law provisions. It then commends a principle that has become central to American tort law—building a tort system that functions to encourage reasonable care for the physical safety of others. Finally, the paper suggests a way in which American tort law could be improved by considering China's adoption of uniform guidelines for certain issues that do not require individuation—an approach which could reduce litigation costs and increase consistency.

October 22, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Pi on Behavioral Economics in Tort Law

Daniel Pi has posted to SSRN The Limits of Behavioral Economics in Tort Law.  The abstract provides:

Skeptics of rational choice theory have long predicted that behavioral economics would radically transform the legislation, adjudication, and analysis of law. Using tort law as an exemplar, this Article maps out the narrow set of conditions where substantive law can be modified to accommodate irrational decision-makers. Specifically, this Article demonstrates that if injurers are systematically biased, and the due care standard can be expressed quantitatively, and victims are unable to take meaningful precautions, then imposing punitive damages can induce irrational injurers to exercise efficient precautionary care. In all other cases, it is better that the law adopt a presumption of rationality, regardless whether individuals behave rationally in fact.

October 20, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 18, 2021

JOTWELL Jurisprudence: Jimenez on Steel on the Fairness Argument for Tort Law

At JOTWELL Jurisprudence, Felipe Jimenez reviews Sandy Steel's On the Moral Necessity of Tort Law:  The Fairness Argument.

October 18, 2021 in Scholarship, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Peltz-Steele's Casebook

Richard Peltz-Steele has posted his casebook, Tortz:  A Study of American Tort Law, to SSRN.  The abstract provides:

This textbook represents a survey study of American tort law suitable to American 1L students and foreign law students. When complete, chapters will cover: (1) introduction, (2) intentional torts, (3) defenses to intentional torts, (4) negligence, (5) defenses to negligence, (6) subjective standards, (7) strict liability, (8) necessity, (9) damages, (10) res ipsa loquitur, (11) multiple liabilities, (12) attenuated duty and causation (scope of liability), (13) affirmative duty, (14) nuisance, (15) media torts, (16) business torts, (17) worker compensation, and (18) government liability and "constitutional tort." This pedagogy is built on the teachings of Professor Marshall S. Shapo. Chapters will be added as they are completed, anticipating the full work by the end of 2022.

October 14, 2021 in Books, Scholarship, Teaching Torts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Gold on the Reasonably Loyal Person

Andrew Gold has posted to SSRN The Reasonably Loyal Person.  The abstract provides:

This chapter is a contribution to a book on John Gardner’s work in private law theory. The chapter takes up a puzzle that Gardner raised: why is there no “reasonably loyal trustee” in fiduciary law? Notably, he proposes that the role of a trustee might lack a law-independent counterpart. That, in turn, could make it impossible for trust law (and by implication, fiduciary law) to “pass the buck” to whatever it is that the “reasonably loyal person” would do. I will suggest that fiduciary relationships frequently do have law-independent counterparts, and moreover that such counterparts can evolve over time. Relatedly, I will argue that a wide range of extra-legal conceptions of loyalty are available for buck passing purposes; not all loyalty is built on a prior meaningful relationship between a loyal party and the object of her loyalty. Lastly, I will conclude with some thoughts on why buck passing could be valuable.

October 13, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 11, 2021

Long on Tort Law, Statutes, and the Workplace

Alex Long has posted to SSRN The Statutification of Tort Law Involving the Workplace.  The abstract provides:

The phenomenon of the "tortification" of employment law involves the consideration and importation of common-law tort principles when interpreting statutory anti-discrimination law. This Article explores the other side of the coin: the “statutification” of tort law as it applies to the workplace. State courts have only infrequently partaken in this enterprise, even in situations in which the two areas of law involve similar issues. This Article suggests that at least some limited form of statutification of tort law as it pertains to the workplace might be useful.

October 11, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 8, 2021

Waldron on Duty

Jeremy Waldron has posted to SSRN On Duty.  The abstract provides:

Duties are normally understood prescriptively, in terms of the particular action a given duty requires. This essay, however, considers an alternative understanding. Duties may be understood by reference to situations for which the duty-bearer takes responsibility. (Not responsibility in a causal sense, but responsibility in a forward-looking sense--like being "on duty"). The paper explores the difference between these two understandings of duty and the attractions of the situational version. One attractive feature of the situational understanding is that it is open-ended (rather than settled and determinate) in the sense it conveys of what might be expected of the duty-bearer.

October 8, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Keating on Corrective Justice

Greg Keating has posted to SSRN Corrective Justice:  Sovereign or Subordinate?.  The abstract provides:

This chapter discusses the concept of corrective justice, which has been at the heart of much recent scholarship on the law of torts in particular, and private law more generally. Notwithstanding its familiarity, ancient origin, and apparent universal acceptance, the concept of corrective justice has produced a remarkable number of distinct conceptions and has stirred up major controversies. For at least a generation, corrective justice stood at the center of the argument between economic and non-economic theories of tort. For legal econo¬mists, corrective justice was an aspect of the institution of tort law. It was part of the data that needed to be explained and justified in economic terms. Corrective justice was subor¬dinate. It was a feature of—not a justification for—the institution of tort law. For legal philosophers Ernest Weinrib and Jules Coleman—who championed corrective justice as the counter-theory to economic analysis—corrective justice was sovereign. It was both in¬stantiated in the institution of tort law and the justification for the institution. It was incipiently and powerfully normative. Furthermore, the justification that corrective justice supplied was formal, not instrumental. The chapter explains and analyzes corrective justice in light of this history, in the hope that this will set the stage for tort theory to move forward.

October 6, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Wright on Haack and Standard of Proof

Richard Wright has posted to SSRN Legal Proof:  Foundherentism and Statistical Evidence.  The abstract provides:

This paper is one of several papers initially presented at a conference in March 2020 at the University of Girona, in Spain, in honor of Susan Haack, which will be published after translation into Spanish by Marcel Pons. This paper discusses (i) Haack's important work on proving causation or any other alleged facts, which focuses on case law and academic doctrine in the USA, and (ii) recent important work on the standard of proof in civil cases in Europe collected in Standards of Proof in Europe (Lubos Tichy ed., Mohr Siebeck, 2019). The standard of proof for civil cases in civil law jurisdictions is generally considered to be much higher than the standard of proof stated in common law jurisdictions. In both types of jurisdiction, and especially in civil law jurisdictions, the standard of proof in civil cases generally requires the formation of an at least minimal belief in the truth of the relevant facts, based on the concrete facts in the particular case. Statistical frequencies, no matter how high, will not suffice.

October 5, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 4, 2021

Keating on Form and Substance in Tort Law

Greg Keating has posted to SSRN his piece in the most-recent issue of the Journal of Tort Law, Form and Substance in the "Private Law" of Torts.  The abstract provides:

Instrumentalist ideas have long been prominent in torts scholarship. Since the rise of legal realism, discussions of deterrence, compensation, the minimization of accident costs, and the distribution of losses, have dominated scholarly discourse. In the past several decades, however, wholesale rejections of instrumentalist tort theory have arisen. The most uncompromising of these views rallies around the avowedly formalist battle cry that tort is “private law”. Ernest Weinrib’s elegant and influential book, The Idea of Private Law, declares its allegiance to that thesis in its title, and the idea figures almost as centrally in Arthur Ripstein’s recent and important Private Wrongs. Theorists who rally around the banner of “private law” claim that tort law’s governing principles of right and responsibility tumble out of the field’s characteristic legal form. Law, as they understand it, is constitutive of just relations among persons, not an instrument for the pursuit of independently valuable ends. For scholars like Weinrib and Ripstein, “private law” is the Kantian idea of reason that makes our actual law of torts intelligible. The claim that torts is a law of wrongs where (1) persons bring claims in their own names for (2) harms that they have wrongly suffered against (3) those allegedly responsible for those wrongful harms is powerful and persuasive. The claim that the obligations persons owe one another in tort are obligations owed among equal and independent persons is likewise compelling. But theorists of tort as “private law” overshoot the mark by both asking and making too much of form. They ask too much of form when they attempt to make sense of the private law of torts solely in terms of form—eschewing all talk of interests. We cannot understand or justify the law of torts without attending to the interests that it protects. In tort, as elsewhere, rights and the duties they ground protect important individual interests. For example, our pressing interest in the physical integrity of our persons grounds the law of negligence. Theorist of tort as “private law” make too much of form when they present the legal category of tort as its own autonomous domain, sealed off against infection by any legal field whose form identifies it as “public law”. In our law, the private law of torts cooperates and competes with public law institutions as a response to the pervasiveness of accidental harm in an industrial and technological society. Tort is one institutional instrument available to us to secure diverse, important interests against interference and impairment. Establishing rightful relations among free and equal persons in civil society requires that institutions protect persons’ urgent interests, not just establish their formal independence. The theoretical understanding that we need will recognize that we misunderstand even the private law of torts itself if we sever it entirely from forms of collective responsibility for avoiding and repairing accidental harm. Our private law of torts competes and cooperates with these bodies of law and cannot be understood in isolation from them.

October 4, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 1, 2021

Chamallas on Social Justice Tort Theory

Martha Chamallas has posted to SSRN Social Justice Tort Theory, her contribution to the Journal of Tort Law's symposium on "The State of Tort Theory."  The abstract provides:

Alongside the dominant law and economics and corrective justice approaches to tort law, a new genre of tort theory based on principles and perspectives of social justice has come into its own and deserves recognition. Social justice tort theory starts from the premise that tort law reflects and reinforces systemic forms of injustice in the larger society and maintains that the compensatory ideal of tort law cannot be extricated from these larger systems. It is multi-dimensional and intersectional, recognizing that the impact of injury lands intersectionally, sometimes changing the intensity of the injury or distorting the nature of the injury. Social justice tort scholars have examined torts in gendered and racialized contexts, as well as in ordinary cases that seem to have little to do with systemic injury. In addition to feminist and critical race theory, they have borrowed from critical disability studies, queer theory and political economy. Their work demonstrates how tort law unfairly distributes damages, fails to provide adequate relief for victims of sexual assault or for people who suffer racial insult and discrimination, and erases maternal and reproductive harms. In their work, we can see common deconstructive moves (an emphasis on disparate impacts and devaluation; a teasing out of cognitive bias; and a critique of exceptionalism in tort doctrine) as well as guiding principles for reconstruction (incorporating victims’ perspectives; treating boundaries between civil rights law and tort law as permeable; and enhancing dignity and recognition).

October 1, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Rave on Tort Claims as Property Rights

Theodore Rave has posted to SSRN Tort Claims as Property Rights.  The abstract provides:

Courts have long said that legal claims are a constitutionally protected form of property. But what does that mean? This essay explores the treatment of legal claims as property rights in the context of mass torts in doctrinal, theoretical, and economic terms. Corrective justice and civil recourse conceptions of tort law dictate that tort claims are owned by individual plaintiffs. Allocating these property rights at the individual scale can make it difficult to use public mechanisms, like class actions, to aggregate mass tort plaintiffs’ claims to achieve tort law’s instrumental goals like deterrence horizontal equity. At the same time property rights in tort claims facilitate aggregation and mass settlement through private ordering that often sweeps away individualized distinctions among plaintiffs. While the private aggregate settlements that emerge may sometimes further tort law’s instrumental goals, they do so fortuitously, as a byproduct of intermediaries seeking private gain from bundling claims together for sale to the defendant en masse, and without the transparency or oversight of public alternatives.

September 21, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Dorfman on the Work of Tort Law

Avihay Dorfman has posted to SSRN The Work of Tort Law.  The abstract provides:

Tort law does many things—it determines substantive rights, decides what counts as violating these rights, recognizes rights of repair, and grants rights of redress. Two conceptions of tort law appear to dominate the ways we should understand and discharge these tasks. One conception takes tort law to be the law of wrongs whereas the other conception equates tort law with the law of victim recourse. I argue that both conceptions (including a combination of both) mischaracterize what tort law does and what it should be doing. By contrast, the conception I shall defend—viz., the conflict theory of tort law—takes the basic task of tort law to be that of identifying the nature of the conflict to which it responds (or shapes). In fact, there are three of them: Inherently valuable, tolerably valuable, and valueless conflicts. Each type of conflict calls for a qualitatively different response by the law of torts. The conflict theory, I argue, changes the way we understand and determine the rights, duties, liabilities, and remedies that arise in and around tort law. I demonstrate this claim in connection with the tort of battery and then extend the analysis to capture the tort law of workplace and, in particular, trespass law as it applies to organizing activities at the physical workplace.

September 16, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Wright on Multiple Legally Responsible Causes

Richard Wright has posted to SSRN Identifying and Assigning Liability Among Multiple Legally Responsible Causes.  The abstract provides:

This paper, forthcoming in the Rechtstheorie journal, discusses the development of the NESS analysis of natural causation in philosophy and law and (relatedly) the failure of the but-for/sine-qua-non test as an exclusive test, responds to criticisms of the NESS analysis, notes general acceptance of the NESS analysis by academics and increasingly by courts made aware of it, distinguishes the natural causation issue from the legal responsibility and ultimate liability issues, and briefly discusses the legal responsibility and ultimate liability issues.

September 14, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 10, 2021

Hedley on Private Law Theory

Steve Hedley has posted to SSRN Private Law Theory:  The State of the Art.  The abstract provides:

This essay reviews four recent English-language essay collections, each of which proposes a vision of private law theory – that is, of how private law appears in the light of a wider understanding of the world. It concentrates on how each collection gives some sort of shape to the emerging discipline. Discussion of the shape, meaning and significance of private law is of course nothing new; but the recent massive outpouring of theory, and the issues which have been treated as important, require some discussion of the intellectual climate which has led us to this place. For the most part, this essay argues, the discussion has been governed by the increasing obsolescence of classical private law concepts, which the more progressive writers have taken as a call to develop new concepts, and the more traditional writers have taken as a call to defend what is valuable about them; over time, this has increasingly pushed the traditionalists to a position where they can describe some (though hardly all) of what we all see, but which is largely impotent in justifying it – that is, in explaining why it is worth retaining. Meanwhile, the terms of debate have become increasingly narrow, as continuity is privileged over change, the lawyer’s point of view privileged over that of other community members, and national court-based law is emphasised over the many other forms of social ordering. Yet there are now also welcome signs of a broader approach, by which different perspectives are seen as complementing one another rather than as rivals, and there is (sometimes at least) genuine enquiry into what is really universal and what is merely a local present-day peculiarity. And we might be approaching – to put it no higher– the time when private law theory is a genuine conversation rather than as a mere cacophony of voices.

September 10, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Geistfeld on Proximate Cause

Mark Geistfeld has posted to SSRN Proximate Cause Untangled.  The abstract provides:

The many facets of tort liability are filtered through the requirement of proximate cause, which has made the element confusing and the source of considerable controversy. Is proximate cause properly determined by the directness test or the foreseeability test, each of which has been both widely adopted and roundly criticized? Is there any defensible conception of a direct cause? Is foreseeability an adequately determinate method for limiting liability? If so, is foreseeability relevant to duty, to proximate cause, or to both elements? Disagreement about all these matters stems from the failure to fully untangle the role of proximate cause across all elements of the tort claim.

In a negligence case, for example, duty determines the risks that factor into the duty to exercise reasonable care. This property implies that the duty must be limited to the risks of foreseeable harm in order for the standard of reasonable care to govern only those harms. Foreseeability for this purpose is defined by the general zones of danger or reference classes that the reasonable person would consider when estimating the likelihood of accidental harm, reducing foreseeability to a behavioral concept that is adequately determinate for resolving the issue of breach. The element of proximate cause then provides a case-specific requirement that the plaintiff’s injury must be within a general category of foreseeable harms encompassed by both the tort duty and its breach—a necessary predicate for liability. The prima facie case accordingly requires the foreseeability test to establish proximate cause for the breach of a duty that is limited to the risks of foreseeable harm.

Once liability has been established, the damages phase of the case requires a further inquiry to fix the full extent of compensable harm proximately caused by the tortious conduct. The foreseeability test produces inequities in the determination of damages that the directness test fairly resolves. This inquiry is structured by the uniformly adopted rule that permits full recovery for an unforeseeably large harm, such as a crushed skull, that was directly caused by a tortious force that would normally cause minor injury, such as a bump on the head. This rationale also explains why the intentional torts exclusively rely on the directness test, eliminating culpability as a confounding factor in the analysis of proximate cause. Because the directness test is a rule for equitably determining compensatory damages, its tort rationale does not justify the directness test for proximate cause in criminal cases, contrary to a widely adopted assumption. Instead of being competing formulations, the directness and foreseeability tests each address different components of a tort claim, explaining why each one is both widely adopted and yet roundly criticized when employed as the only method for determining proximate cause.

September 7, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Kutner on Property Torts and the Restatements

Peter Kutner has posted to SSRN Property Torts and the Restatements.  The abstract provides:

Essay examining connections between tort law and property, and the Restatements' treatment of tort liability for loss of, damage to or interference with property interests.

September 2, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 30, 2021

Punishment and Private Law

Bloomsbury has released Punishment and Private Law, edited by Elise Bant, Wayne Courtney, James Goudkamp & Jeannie Paterson.  The blurb provides:

Does private law punish? This collection answers this complex but compelling question. Lawyers from across the spectrum of the law (contract, tort, restitution) explore exactly how it punishes wrong doing. These leading voices ask whether that punishment is effective and what its societal role might be. Taking the discussion out of the technical and into a broader realms of a wider purpose, it is both compelling and thought-provoking.

Order online at www.bloomsbury.com – use the code UG8 at the checkout to get 20% off your order!

August 30, 2021 in Books, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Janger & Twerski on Warranties and Amazon

Edward Janger and Aaron Twerski have posted to SSRN Warranty, Product Liability and Transaction Structure:  The Problem of Amazon.  The abstract provides:  

Amazon, and other internet sales platforms, have revolutionized the manner in which goods are purchased and sold. The obligations undertaken by Amazon in those sales are unclear, both as a matter of transparency, and as a matter of legal doctrine. Is Amazon a store? Is it a shipper? Is it a telephone? In various transactions Amazon can play some or all of these roles. Choosing the right metaphor has consequences. Amazon knows this and has done everything it can to deploy the metaphors selectively to its best legal and practical advantage, even when the chosen characterizations are inapt or even mutually inconsistent.

In an earlier article, we explored whether Amazon should be considered a “seller” for the purposes of product liability when a customer purchases goods from a third-party seller using the Amazon platform. We concluded that the answer was an emphatic “Yes.” We examined the relationship between Amazon and the third-party seller, and considered the extent to which Amazon controlled all aspects of the sale. We also noted, to a lesser extent, the way in which the consumer experienced the sale process.

The purpose of this article is, to extend that analysis to include the law of contracts—principally the law of warranty. We ask the next question: Should Amazon be considered a “warrantor” for the purposes of making the implied warranty of merchantability when it serves as an intermediary between a third-party seller and a consumer buyer? Again, we conclude that it does.

This article will proceed in four steps. First, it will explore the formal legal problems that transaction structure creates when sales are intermediated by an internet platform like Amazon. The problem created by Amazon’s manipulation of transaction structure is the same for contract and for tort, but as we shall see, the doctrinal response is not symmetric. Second, it will explore whether that transaction structure should affect substantial rights. To address that question we will look at what a customer actually sees when they purchase something from Amazon. We will show that what the consumer experiences is at odds with the formal transaction structure claimed by Amazon. We will examine the text of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and show that the statute does not preclude Amazon from being considered a warrantor. Further, Amazon could, and probably should be considered a warrantor-by-estoppel, or as an agent. Third, we will consider whether Amazon should be viewed as successfully disclaiming warranty. Here we conclude that the answer is tied inextricably to ongoing debates about the enforceability of boilerplate in consumer contracts. Those debates are reflected in the current battle royal of the Restatement of Consumer Contracts, but more importantly, in uncertainty in the courts. For that reason, warranty will offer an imperfect solution at best. So, finally, fourth, we return to tort, and argue that the section 20 of Third Restatement of Torts – Product Liability offers a somewhat more direct solution, including within the definition of "seller," somebody who "sells or otherwise distributes."

August 25, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 20, 2021

Harris on Rationales for Vicarious Liability

Daniel Harris has posted to SSRN The Rival Rationales for Vicarious Liability.  The abstract provides:

Vicarious liability means holding one person responsible for the misdeeds of another just as if the wrongdoer and the defendant were the same person. There are two competing rationales for the idea. The agency rationale is based on the idea that agents act as extensions of their principals’ legal personality. According to the agency rationale, vicarious liability requires proof the wrongdoer was an agent, apparent agent, or employee of the defendant (the exact relationship depending on the type of tort) plus proof the misconduct occurred within the scope of the agency. Under an alternative approach that Dean William Prosser dubbed the “modern justification of vicarious liability,” agency does not matter. Corporate defendants must pay, regardless of fault, for enterprise related torts, even if the actual wrongdoer was an independent contractor or an employee acting outside the scope of employment. Scholars often present the modern justification as the law and ignore the agency rationale or treat it as outmoded. This Article will show that, in fact, the agency rationale is supported by powerful arguments and is generally followed by the courts (outside of California).

August 20, 2021 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)