Consumer Liability for Harms Linked to Purchases
affiliation not provided to SSRN
March 12, 2012
Arizona Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2012
While the problem of negative externalities has long been recognized by environmental law, legal responses have uniformly focused on producer behavior. There is growing recognition, however, that consumption also contributes significantly to climate change and other forms of environmental degradation in ways that are not fully reflected in the prices of products. A major reason is that the harms from consumption develop many years after the consumer makes a purchase. But in the future, a virtually cashless society reliant on electronic payments will record the purchases of consumers. Technological developments will set the stage for the viability of consumers as class action defendants who could be held liable for societal harms that subsequently develop as a result of their purchases. Today, consumer class action plaintiffs discover they are entitled to portions of class action verdicts; in the future, consumer class action defendants will learn they must pay plaintiffs, including state governments suing on the basis of public nuisance, for the damages resulting from their purchases. Consumers, of course, would have to be put on notice, perhaps through a labeling system, that they are assuming liability for future harms. By taking advantage of technological developments that enable a cashless society, it will become possible to sue consumers who purchase goods that contribute to environmental degradation and other social harms.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Keywords: consumer liability, class action defendants, consumption laws, public nuisance, climate changeAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 12, 2012 ; Last revised: April 3, 2012
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