Street-Level Tort Law: The Bureaucratic Justice of Liability Decision-Making
(2012) 75(3) Modern Law Review 347–367
Posted: 11 May 2012
Date Written: May 3, 2012
Most legal scholarship on tort focuses primarily on judicial decisions, but this represents only a limited aspect of tortious liability. The vast majority of decisions concerning tortious liability are made by bureaucrats. Unavoidably then, there are two tiers of justice in tort law. This article focuses on the lower tier – bureaucratic decision-making – arguing that the justice of bureaucratic decisions on tort should be considered on its own terms and not by judicial standards. We develop the notion of bureaucratic justice, applying a normative framework originally set out in relation to public administration. This enables an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of different ways of bureaucratically determining liability claims in tort. The regimes discussed concern the liability of public authorities, but decision makers comprise both state and non-state actors and the bureaucratic justice framework is, in principle, applicable to understand and evaluate the liability of both public and private actors.
Keywords: tort, insurance, bureaucracy
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