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Why Civil Recourse Theory is Incomplete

Christopher J. Robinette

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School

August 16, 2010

Tennessee Law Review, Vol. 78, p. 431, 2011
Widener Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-26

The latest prominent theory of torts is the rich “civil recourse” theory of Professors John C. P. Goldberg and Benjamin C. Zipursky. Pursuant to civil recourse, tort is a law of wrongs. Specifically, tort law’s purpose is “providing victims with an avenue of civil recourse against those who have wrongfully injured them.” As such, Goldberg & Zipursky, with certain de minimis exceptions, deny that tort’s purpose is to serve as an instrument to achieve social and public policy goals.

Although I agree with Goldberg & Zipursky that wrongs are an essential component of tort law, their exclusion of instrumentalist concerns, such as deterrence, loss spreading, and administrative efficiency, is overly broad.

Using tort reform as a perspective by which to examine torts, I chronicle the growth of instrumentalism in tort law. All of the major tort reforms over the last century were based in instrumentalism. Moreover, when the reforms are viewed chronologically, a pattern develops, In each successive reform, instrumentalism made increasing inroads into tort.

Thus, as a positive account of tort law, civil recourse is incomplete. Tort law, as a positive matter, is about wrongs, but not exclusively wrongs. It is pluralist, including elements of instrumentalism as well.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 57

Keywords: Torts, Tort Reform, Civil Recourse

JEL Classification: K13

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Date posted: August 16, 2010 ; Last revised: July 22, 2015

Suggested Citation

Robinette, Christopher J., Why Civil Recourse Theory is Incomplete (August 16, 2010). Tennessee Law Review, Vol. 78, p. 431, 2011; Widener Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-26. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1659711 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1659711

Contact Information

Christopher J. Robinette (Contact Author)
Widener University - Commonwealth Law School ( email )
3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9380
United States
717.541.3993 (Phone)

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