Public Services Meet Private Law

54 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2006

See all articles by Michael I. Krauss

Michael I. Krauss

Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University


Some plaintiffs' lawyers believe that expenses incurred by governments after the criminal use of their products take issue with the claim that the government services for which compensation is claimed are free for all, and therefore ineligible for tort recovery. They argue that government services should not subsidize tortfeasors, and that proper accounting requires tortfeasors to internalize the social costs of their alleged misbehavior. They would do away with what they call the free public services doctrine (FPSD), which one author described as holding that a governmental entity may not recover from a tortfeasor the costs of public services occasioned by the tortfeasor's wrong. On the other side of the political spectrum, proponents of federal tort reform have sought to specifically immunize certain defendants from cost recoupment suits. Of course such legislation, if enacted, would imply that the recoupment suits could have been allowed as a general common law matter in its absence. This article contends that both camps would benefit from a more thorough understanding of the Free Public Services Doctrine's place within the common law of tort. FPSD is in reality, contra its critics' claims, a universally applied illustration of fundamental common law tort concepts: duty, proximate cause and damages. Wherever these elements remain requirements for common law liability, public service cost recoupment should be denied.

Keywords: tort, tobacco, firearms, liability, government, public services

Suggested Citation

Krauss, Michael I., Public Services Meet Private Law. San Diego Law Review, Vol. 43, 2007; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 06-33. Available at SSRN:

Michael I. Krauss (Contact Author)

Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Suite 316
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
703-993-8024 (Phone)
703-993-8124 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics