Expanding Reasonableness in the Field of Torts Induces Efficiency and Fairness
Over the past several years the body of laws governing compensation in tort law has substantially transformed from its common law origins. In the course of what many have advocated in the name of "tort reform," more than half of the United States have revised, or attempted to revise, one or more aspects of tort liability and damage principles to a greater or lesser degree. Tort law is, of course, constantly evolving; everyday in courts across the country, judges, attorneys and jurors are making and reshaping the law. Despite efforts for reform, one still cannot overlook the nature of modern torts and fail to see a convoluted system of rules and laws that has seized the efficiency, fairness and original purpose of tort law.
The issue of the functionality and practicality of modern tort law has ripened in recent years. Skyrocketing insurance claims, fraud and collusion, continually evolving definitions of harm and offense, changing societal standards of "reasonableness," and evolving forms of technology in the face of tradition all compel one to critique the Law of Torts from a much more critical point of view.
The overall purpose of tort law has always been to compensate plaintiffs for unreasonable harm which they have sustained1. In essence, torts are all about whether some or all of the monetary incidents of an injury should be shifted to a third party defendant.2 "Reasonableness" can be defined as fair, proper or moderate under the circumstances.3
A full blown reform of tort law would seem tantamount to the dismantling of common tort law. Such an abolition of the current tort system is an idea that has been discussed with increasing frequency and seriousness in recent years. "It is time, I believe, to focus academic and political attention once more on doing away with ordinary tort actions for personal injury."4 An examination of historical and modern tort law and some principles reveal that areas exist that are in need of reconsideration. Furthermore expanding and implements a doctrine of reasonableness in certain aspects of tort law would induce efficiency and fairness in a runaway system.
This paper seeks to explore what the tort system would look like if more courts used a reasonableness standard. Part II will discuss expanding reasonableness to aspects of products liability. Section III, will detail how a reasonable approach coupled with personal responsibility would enhance the effectiveness of the tort system. Section IV argues how the hybrid theory of personal responsibility and reasonableness will apply to general tort damage and compensation recovery. Section V will specifically dissect medical malpractice compensation and the reasonable steps that can be taken to protect everyone involved in the practice of medicine, both the patients and doctors. Finally, Section VI will conclude with final thoughts and recommendations for the role of reasonableness in the tort system.
2. Products Liability
Products liability is the fastest-growing, and probably now the most economically significant, branch of tort law. Its very name refers to the liability of a seller of a chattel which, because of a defect, causes injury to its purchaser, user, or sometimes, a bystander. 5 The general rules of negligence in products liability refers to one who sells a product.6 Most commonly, negligence theory is used to make a manufacturer liable where he failed to use reasonable care in designing, manufacturing, or labeling a product.7 A negligent manufacturer is liable to a "remote" purchaser (one who bought from some intermediary in the distribution channel), or to a "user" or "bystander."8 In other words, "privity" is not required ─ the requirement that, in order to maintain an action, the plaintiff must show that he...
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