Introduction: Tort Law as Cultural Practice

18 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2009

See all articles by David M. Engel

David M. Engel

SUNY Buffalo Law School

Michael McCann

University of Washington - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 8, 2009


Most scholars would agree that tort law is a cultural phenomenon and that its norms, institutions, and procedures both reflect and shape the broader culture of which it is a part. Yet relatively few studies have attempted to analyze tort law as a form of cultural practice or to address basic challenges regarding the methods or subject matter that are appropriate to such analyses. This essay introduces and summarizes a new volume of interdisciplinary, comparative, and historical studies of tort law in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, India, Thailand, and elsewhere (the volume is entitled Fault Lines: Tort Law as Cultural Practice, Stanford University Press, 2009). The introductory essay contends that culture is not some 'thing' outside of tort law that may or may not influence legal behavior and deposit artifacts in the case law reporters. Rather, tort law and culture are inseparable dimensions of social practice in which risk, injury, liability, compensation, deterrence, and normative pronouncements about acceptable behavior are crucial features. Contributors to this volume demonstrate a variety of ways in which tort law’s cultural dimensions can be explored as they write about such topics as causation and duty, gender and race, the jury and the media, products liability and medical malpractice, insurance and the police, and tobacco and asbestos litigation. Their analyses extend far beyond the confines of the tort reform debate, which has until now set the agenda for much of the sociolegal research on tort law.

Keywords: torts, culture, comparative law, gender, race, jury, tobacco, Japan, India, Thailand, UK

Suggested Citation

Engel, David M. and McCann, Michael, Introduction: Tort Law as Cultural Practice (July 8, 2009). Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-15, Available at SSRN:

David M. Engel (Contact Author)

SUNY Buffalo Law School ( email )

415 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States

Michael McCann

University of Washington - Department of Political Science ( email )

101 Gowen Hall
Box 353530
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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