Tort Liability as Compensation - Jotwell: Torts:
by Prof. Gregory Keating (USC)
"Mark Gesitfeld, Compensation as a Tort Norm, in Philosophical Foundations of the Law of Torts (John Oberdiek ed., 2014).
For more than a decade, Mark Geistfeld has been developing an original and sophisticated theory of tort. Professor Geistfeld’s work has been characterized by a remarkable and admirable confluence of four characteristics. First, the work is attentive to, and respectful of, the fundamental commitments and nuances of tort doctrine and policy. Second, Professor Geistfeld’s writings display a deep knowledge of tort history and theory. Third, the work deploys a deeply sophisticated knowledge of economics but does so in language that is intelligible to those of us who are not legal economists. Fourth, the work is sensitive and responsive to the criticisms that legal philosophers have made of the economic analysis of torts.
The result is an impressively original tort theory in the making. In Compensation as a Tort Norm, published in John Oberdiek, ed., Philosophical Foundations of the Law of Torts (Oxford, 2014) Professor Geistfeld both summarizes and extends his project.
The central claim of Compensation as a Tort Norm is vividly counterintuitive. According to Professor Geistfeld, all tort law—especially that part of the law which obligates actors to avoid harming others and thus demands the avoidance of actions whose occurrence triggers the payment of compensation—is compensatory.
Quoting Frederick Pollock, who was himself quoting Justinian, Professor Geistfeld begins his paper with the claim that the law of torts “has for its main purpose nothing else than the development of [the] precept ‘Thou shalt do no hurt to thy neighbor.’” Elaborating, Geistfeld quotes Percy Winfield’s restatement of this precept as the principle that “all injuries done to another person are torts, unless based on some justification recognized by law.” The natural way to read these remarks, I think, is to take them to assert that the infliction of injury is presumptively tortious. Therefore, the infliction of injury presumptively gives rise to a claim for compensation.".........
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