Does Product Liability Make Us Safer?

26 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2011 Last revised: 27 Nov 2012

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

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Date Written: February 28, 2011

Abstract

Although a fundamental objective of tort liability is to promote safety, the performance of product liability has been more mixed. Safety levels have increased steadily over the past century for reasons wholly apart from tort liability, such as increases in societal wealth and technological progress. Low and moderate levels of liability enhance new product introductions and safety innovations, but high levels of liability have the opposite effect. Similar results are found for new product introductions, patents, and rates of R&D. There is no empirical evidence of a deterrent effect of punitive damages. Jury decision making is hindered by hindsight bias and other cognitive failures, which creates excessive aversion to novel risks associated with innovative products. Jurors’ biases against corporate risk analyses discourages systematic analysis of product risks and potentially beneficial new products.

Keywords: tort liability, product liability

JEL Classification: K13, K32

Suggested Citation

Viscusi, W. Kip, Does Product Liability Make Us Safer? (February 28, 2011). Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1770031 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1770031

W. Kip Viscusi (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7715 (Phone)
615-322-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
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Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

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