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The Empirical Effects of Tort Reform

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased)

April 1, 2012

Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts, Forthcoming
Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-26

Tort reforms enacted in response to asserted crises date back to the 1970s and have emphasized the highly visible areas of punitive damages, medical malpractice, and products liability. Little evidence exists that reform of punitive damages affected the ratio between punitive and compensatory damages. This is consistent with the absence of evidence that punitive damages were ever out of control and in need of reform. Evidence of the effect of tort reform in the medical malpractice field is mixed. Caps on non-economic damages have reduced costs, thereby likely decreasing pressure on hospitals to improve care. Consistent evidence of effects on physician behavior and physician supply has not emerged. Tort reform has rarely sought to address the well-established problem of widespread harm caused by poor quality care. Products liability plaintiffs have had decreasing success over time. While one cannot rule out specific statutory reforms as achieving more favorable results for defendants, the national scope of plaintiffs’ declining success supports an explanation based on the social construction of knowledge by well-funded industry groups.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: Tort, Tort Reform, Punitive Damages, Product Liability, Medical Malpractive

JEL Classification: K00, K13, K40

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Date posted: April 2, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Eisenberg, Theodore, The Empirical Effects of Tort Reform (April 1, 2012). Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts, Forthcoming; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-26. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2032740

Contact Information

Theodore Eisenberg (Contact Author)
Cornell University, Law School (Deceased) ( email )
Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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