Reforming Products Liability

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Harvard University Press, 1991 - Business & Economics - 270 pages
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The current products liability crisis is both familiar and puzzling: million-dollar awards for apparently frivolous claims, inadequate settlements for thousands of people with severe injuries, skyrocketing insurance premiums, an overburdened judicial system. The adverse effects of this crisis on product innovation may be particularly detrimental to the extent that they deprive consumers of newer and safer goods.

W. Kip Viscusi offers the first comprehensive and objective analysis of the crisis. He employs extensive, original empirical data to diagnose the causes and to assess the merits of alternative reform policies.

Drawing on both liability insurance trends and litigation patterns, Viscusi shows that the products liability crisis is not simply a phenomenon of the 1980s but has been developing for several decades. He argues that the principal causes have been the expansion of the doctrine of design defect, the emergence of mass toxic torts, and the increase in lawsuits involving hazard warnings. This explanation differs sharply from that of most other scholars, who blame the doctrine of strict liability. Viscusi reformulates the concept of design defect, grounding it in sound economic analysis. He also evaluates public policy regarding hazard warnings and proposes a new national approach.

More generally, the author sketches a comprehensive social risk policy, in which tort liability interacts with government health and safety regulation to foster a coherent set of institutional responses to health and safety risks. Reforming Products Liability will be of special interest to lawyers, judges, policymakers, economists, and all those interested in legal policy and health and safety issues.

 

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Contents

Recent Trends in Products Liability
6
The Surge in Asbestos Litigation
20
Other Economic Effects of Products Liability
37
Court Verdicts
50
The Design Defect Test
62
The Explosive Mathematics of Damages
87
Regulation of Product Safety
117
Hazard Warnings
132
Workers Compensation 775
175
Will Products Liability Reform Matter?
187
A Strategy for Principled Products Liability
209
Products Liability Costs in Different
217
The Litigation of JobRelated Claims
227
Notes
235
Bibliography
257
Index
267

Environmental and Mass Toxic Torts
157

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About the author (1991)

W. Kip Viscusi is George G. Allen Professor of Economics at Duke University and Associate Reporter on the American Law Institute tort liability reform project

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