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Should Manufacturers and Sellers of Lethal Products Be Subject to Criminal Prosecution?

13 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2009 Last revised: 13 Jun 2012

Frank J. Vandall

Emory University School of Law


The topic of the symposium is "crimtorts." The term was created by Professors Thomas Koenig and Michael Rustad in a 1998 law review article. It refers to the area between criminal law and torts: those "corporate crimes" (actually torts) where punitive damages are available to the plaintiff. Crimtorts centers on corporate acts that injure numerous persons, such as the Ford Pinto case.

My paper lies at the heart of the crimtorts debate. The question presented is whether products liability should be criminalized at the federal level. Does it make good sense to fine or imprison employees, manufacturers, dealers, or retailers who sell products that knowingly cause death or serious bodily injury? This specific issue was presented when Senator Specter recently proposed that persons who manufacture lethal products should be imprisoned or fined.

Keywords: Criminal law, Ford Pinto, products liability, federal crime, Senator Specter, lethal product, manufacturer, seller, prosecution, political abuse, punitive damages, corporate crimes, Senate Judiciary Committee, tort, economics, product design, nonenforcement, cause in fact, proximate cause

Suggested Citation

Vandall, Frank J., Should Manufacturers and Sellers of Lethal Products Be Subject to Criminal Prosecution?. Widener Law Journal, Vol. 17, 2008; Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 9-51. Available at SSRN:

Frank J. Vandall (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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