Advanced Topics in Torts, Insurance, and Compensation
This seminar explores a range of advanced topics in torts, insurance, and compensation. During the semester we will read a number of classic (and some relatively new) law-review articles and book excerpts that examine tort law as well as other non-tort insurance/compensation regimes. This is not a traditional law class. Rather, it is a class in applied legal theory. We will make use of insights from a range of disciplines, including economics, philosophy, psychology, feminist theory, and critical race theory, all to gain a better understanding of the following types of issues:
What are the proper social functions of tort law? Does the presence of liability insurance inhibit or enhance tort law's ability to achieve those functions? To what extent do non-tort compensation and insurance regimes, such as workers' compensation systems and the national vaccine injury compensation program, serve similar social functions? When are such systems preferable to traditional tort law? How does tort law (especially products liability law) compare with administrative regulation as a system for regulating risk? What is the optimal combination of tort law and administrative regulation for different types of risks? When is strict liability a more efficient or fairer liability rule than is negligence? How should tort law (or other insurance/compensation regimes) respond to the rise of artificial intelligence, driverless vehicles, and the internet of things? How does tort law currently contribute to social injustice? What can be done to improve that situation? What are the arguments for and against imposing tort liability, or something akin to tort liability, for the harms caused by tackle football, opioid addiction, gun violence, or racial discrimination?
Although this is a class about legal theory and public policy, no prior training in any field is necessary or even expected. However, a tolerance for and some interest in reading multi-disciplinary scholarship is essential. A prior course in basic tort law is a prerequisite. The success of the class will depend on each student's willingness to do the reading and come every week prepared to contribute. Grades will be based on both in-class discussion and short weekly response papers.