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

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References

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  1. 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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  9. Thomas J. Miceli & Kathleen Segerson, 2001. "A Note on Optimal Care by Wealth-Constrained Injurers," Working papers 2002-44, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised May 2002.
  10. G. Dari Mattiacci & Geert de Geest, 2003. "Judgement Proofness under Four Different Precaution Technologies," Working Papers 03-16, Utrecht School of Economics.
  11. 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.
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  13. 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.
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  15. Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe & De Geest, Gerrit, 2006. "When will judgment proof injurers take too much precaution?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 336-354, September.
  16. 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.
  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.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Ramello, Giovanni B. & Porrini, Donatella, 2010. "Class action and financial markets: Insights from law and economics," POLIS Working Papers 143, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
  2. Andrzej Baniak & Peter Grajzl, 2012. "Equilibrium and Welfare in a Model of Torts with Industry Reputation Effects," CEU Working Papers 2012_4, Department of Economics, Central European University, revised 10 Apr 2012.
  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. 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.
  5. Iljoong Kim, 2008. "Securities laws ‘facilitating’ private enforcement," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 25(1), pages 17-38, February.

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