The Tort Entitlement to Physical Security as the Distributive Basis for Environmental, Health, and Safety Regulations
New York University School of Law
June 25, 2014
15 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 357 (2014)
NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 14-29
NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 14-16
In a wide variety of contexts, individuals face a risk of being physically harmed by the conduct of others in the community. The extent to which the government protects individuals from such harmful behavior largely depends on the combined effect of administrative regulation, criminal law, and tort law. Unless these different departments are coordinated, the government cannot ensure that individuals are adequately secure from the cumulative threat of physical harm. What is adequate for this purpose depends on the underlying entitlement to physical security. What one has lost for purposes of legal analysis depends on what one what was entitled to in the first instance. For example, different specifications of the entitlement can produce substantially different measures of cost that fundamentally alter the type of safety regulations required by cost-benefit analysis, even for ordinary cases involving low risks. Consequently, any mode of safety regulation that requires an assessment of losses or costs ultimately depends on a prior specification of entitlements. For reasons of history and federalism, the entitlement to physical security in the United States can be derived from the common law of torts. In addition to establishing how costs should be measured, the tort entitlement also quantifies any distributive inequities that would be created by a safety standard and shows how they can be redressed within the safety regulation, thereby enabling federal regulatory agencies to conduct cost-benefit analyses that account for matters of distributive equity as required by Executive Order. When applied in this manner, the tort entitlement to physical security promotes substantive consistency across the different departments of law by serving as the distributive basis for environmental, health, and safety regulations that operate entirely outside of the tort system.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 31
Date posted: June 27, 2014
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