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Soft Regulators, though judges

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  • G.G.A. de Geest
  • G. Dari Mattiacci

Abstract

Judges have a tendency to be more demanding than regulators. In the United States, a majority of the courts has adopted the rule that the unexcused violation of a statutory standard is negligence per se. However, the converse does not hold: compliance with regulation does not relieve the injurer of tort liability. In most European legal systems, the outcome is similar. We use a framework in which, on the one hand, the effects of tort law are undermined by insolvency and evidence problems and, on the other hand, regulation is expensive in terms of monitoring and information gathering. We show that a regulatory standard set below the socially optimal level of care can be sufficient to remove the shortcomings of tort law. In essence, this is because the injurer’s cost function may have two local minima that make only major deviations from the socially desirable level of precaution advantageous for the injurer, but not minor violations. This may occur when precaution also or only reduces the magnitude of the harm and under liability for negligence. Thus, minimum regulation can completely restore optimal liability incentives. Conversely, liability reduces the cost of enforcing regulation in two ways: first, enforcing minimum regulation rather than a standard set at the socially optimal level is cheaper because it requires lower monitoring levels; second, tort liability already provides a part of the sanction for sub-optimal behavior, thus allowing for a further reduction in monitoring. Moreover, we show that minimum regulation does not need to be set at a very precise level. On the contrary, any level within a certain range is socially optimal. This allows regulators to further curb their cost by saving on information gathering. We show that an imperfectly working tort system can be fully corrected by minimum regulation in a variety of circumstances (for instance, even if the injurer is unable to compensate for the harm at the optimal level of precaution, and even if the rule in force is strict liability or a cause-in-fact variant of negligence).

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Utrecht School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 05-06.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:use:tkiwps:0506

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Related research

Keywords: insolvency; judgment proof problem; disappearing defendant; bankruptcy; regulation;

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References

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  1. Kahan, Marcel, 1989. "Causation and Incentives to Take Care under the Negligence Rule," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 427-47, June.
  2. Arlen, Jennifer H., 1990. "Re-examining liability rules when injurers as well as victims suffer losses," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 233-239, December.
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  4. Steven Shavell, 2003. "Economic Analysis of Accident Law," NBER Working Papers 9694, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. Burrows, Paul, 1999. "Combining regulation and legal liability for the control of external costs," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 227-244, June.
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  8. Miceli, Thomas J. & Segerson, Kathleen, 2003. "A note on optimal care by wealth-constrained injurers," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 273-284, September.
  9. Giuseppe Dari Mattiacci & Gerrit De Geest, . "When Will Judgment Proof Injurers Take Too Much Precaution?," German Working Papers in Law and Economics 2002-1-1051, Berkeley Electronic Press.
  10. Hiriart, Yolande & Martimort, David & Pouyet, Jérôme, 2004. "On the Optimal Use of Ex Ante Regulation and Ex Post Liability," IDEI Working Papers 274, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  11. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2000. "On the joint use of liability and safety regulation," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 371-382, September.
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  14. Richard MacMinn, 2002. "On the Judgment Proof Problem," The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 27(2), pages 143-152, December.
  15. Steven Shavell, 1984. "A Model of the Optimal Use of Liability and Safety Regulation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(2), pages 271-280, Summer.
  16. Marcel Boyer & Donatella Porrini, 2002. "Modeling the Choice Between Regulation and Liability in Terms of Social Welfare," CIRANO Working Papers 2002s-13, CIRANO.
  17. Boyd, James & Ingberman, Daniel E, 1994. "Noncompensatory Damages and Potential Insolvency," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 895-910, June.
  18. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1984. "The optimal use of fines and imprisonment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 89-99, June.
  19. Viscusi, W Kip, 1988. "Product Liability and Regulation: Establishing the Appropriate Institutional Division of Labor," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 300-304, May.
  20. Innes, Robert, 2004. "Enforcement costs, optimal sanctions, and the choice between ex-post liability and ex-ante regulation," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 29-48, March.
  21. Kolstad, Charles D & Ulen, Thomas S & Johnson, Gary V, 1990. "Ex Post Liability for Harm vs. Ex Ante Safety Regulation: Substitutes or Complements?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(4), pages 888-901, September.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Donatella Porrini & Giovanni B. Ramello, 2011. "Class action and financial markets: insights from law and economics," Journal of Financial Economic Policy, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 3(2), pages 140-160, July.
  2. Baniak Andrzej & Grajzl Peter, 2013. "Equilibrium and Welfare in a Model of Torts with Industry Reputation Effects," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(2), pages 265-302, October.
  3. Bentata Pierre, 2013. "Environmental Regulation and Civil Liability Under Causal Uncertainty: An Empirical Study of the French Legal System," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(2), pages 239-263, October.
  4. Iljoong Kim, 2008. "Securities laws ‘facilitating’ private enforcement," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 25(1), pages 17-38, February.
  5. Bhole, Bharat & Wagner, Jeffrey, 2008. "The joint use of regulation and strict liability with multidimensional care and uncertain conviction," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 123-132, June.

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