Conference on Tort Law and the Modern State

Conference on Tort Law and the Modern State
September 15-16, 2006
  • Spaces are limited. Pre-registration is required. Please register by July 1, 2006.
  • For more information or to register, please contact Thelma Twyman at [email protected].
  • Download the conference brochure for more detailed information on the conference schedule and speakers.

Sponsored by Columbia Law School & Randolph Speakers Fund
In connection with the launch of the peer-reviewed Journal of Tort Law

Jules Coleman, Yale, Editor in Chief
Mark Geistfeld, NYU
John C. P. Goldberg, Vanderbilt
Ronen Perry, University of Haifa
Catherine M. Sharkey, Columbia
Benjamin C. Zipursky, Fordham

The Conference will bring together many of the world's most prominent tort scholars representing a range of perspectives and methodologies including comparative, economic, empirical, historical, institutional, and philosophical analysis.

For millennia, legal systems have provided, under one name or another, remedies for injuries traceable to the acts of others. The modern law of tort in the Anglo-American system traces its roots to the establishment of the Writ of Trespass in the 13th century. Despite wide variations in substance and significance, the core idea that the legal system ought to grant citizens private rights of action against other citizens and government officials is woven deeply into the fabric of modern law. Yet, given that the state, the economy, and the society in which tort law operates has changed so markedly, particularly in the last 150 years, it is important to consider the potential implications of these changes.

  • Is tort law best understood as a historical accident—a primitive form of regulation that was useful in pre-modern times, but that now ought to give way to modern alternatives that can incorporate superior information-gathering and expertise? Or is tort in some instances a superior form of decentralized regulation via monetary incentives enforced by private attorneys general? Or can tort and administrative law work in tandem to improve the operation of the regulatory system?

  • Is tort even appropriately characterized as regulatory law, or is it designed to accomplish other ends? Might it instead be characterized as a scheme of legalized vengeance, a mechanism of corrective justice, or a device for rendering modern society more distributively just? Which if any of these roles is worth preserving in modern political and economic circumstances?

  • After centuries of experience and decades of study, what do we know about the benefits and costs of the tort system? Does it deliver what it promises to deliver? Does it do so efficiently? Can it be made more effective, or should it be scrapped in whole or in part?

  • What can a comparison of the American tort system with those of other nations teach us? Is tort law's relative prominence in the U.S. a product of our relatively weak central government? Our strongly individualist political culture? Do other nations' experiences suggest promising paths for reform or cautionary tales? Can the American model be successfully exported to other legal systems? Should it?

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