Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts
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Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts

Edited by Jennifer H. Arlen

This pioneering Handbook contains specially-commissioned chapters on tort law from leading experts in the field. This volume evaluates issues of vital importance to those seeking to understand and reform the tort law and the litigation process, taking a multi-disciplinary approach, including theoretical economic analysis, empirical analysis, socio-economic analysis, and behavioral analysis. Topics discussed include products liability, medical malpractice, causation, proximate cause, joint and several liability, class actions, mass torts, vicarious liability, settlement, damage rules, juries, tort reform, and potential alternatives to the tort system. Scholars, students, legal practitioners, regulators, and judges with an interest in tort law, litigation, damages, and reform will find this seminal Handbook an invaluable addition to their libraries.
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Chapter 11: The socio-economics of mass torts: What we know, don’t know and should know

Deborah R. Hensler


“Mass tort” is a term of art, not a legal category. The term came into use in the 1980s to describe large numbers of similar lawsuits against one or a few defendants arising out of the same circumstances and claiming compensation for personal injury or property damage. Litigation categorized as “mass torts” includes toxic exposure claims (e.g., asbestos), product defect claims (e.g., Vioxx), physical and psychological abuse claims (e.g., clergy abuse), environmental pollution claims (e.g., the Gulf Oil spill) and mass accident claims (e.g., the Rhode Island night club fire). Although it was the large number of related claims that first drew attention, what distinguishes mass torts from garden-variety tort claims is their aggregated treatment by parties, lawyers and judges. Aggregation shapes every procedural aspect of mass tort litigation, from filing to pre-trial development to disposition, and significantly affects its outcomes.

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