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Environmental Regulation and Civil Liability Under Causal Uncertainty: An Empirical Study of the French Legal System

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  • Bentata Pierre

    () (CERGAM, Aix Marseille Université, 15-19 Allée Claude Forbin, 13627 Aix en Provence Cedex)

Abstract

The key question in this article is to determine whether regulation and regulator information can help to solve causal uncertainty problems in liability. A widely held view among Law and Economics scholars is that civil liability alone is not well-suited to cope with environmental accidents, especially where causation is uncertain or costly to establish. Instead of a simple civil liability rule, it is therefore advocated that a regulatory system be implemented combined with a public insurance scheme, or, alternatively, to institute a mix of regulation and civil liability. Such a mix of regulation and civil liability prevails in French law, and this article presents an original analysis of French court decisions concerning cases of environmental accidents for which causation was uncertain and in which regulators were not able to control for levels of organizational and human care. The dataset covers more than 50 years of trial outcomes from the highest civil and criminal court in France – Cour de Cassation. Our results seem to provide evidence that regulation provides a new way to address causal uncertainty at the liability stage. This may be due to a transfer of information from regulators to judges and to the adoption by judges of a probabilistic approach to causation.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:rlecon:v:9:y:2013:i:2:p:239-263:n:1
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Vera Angelova & Olivier Armantier & Giuseppe Attanasi & Yolande Hiriart, 2014. "Relative performance of liability rules: experimental evidence," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 77(4), pages 531-556, December.
    2. Hiriart, Yolande & Martimort, David & Pouyet, Jerome, 2010. "The public management of risk: Separating ex ante and ex post monitors," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1008-1019, December.
    3. 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.
    4. Hutchinson, Emma & van 't Veld, Klaas, 2005. "Extended liability for environmental accidents: what you see is what you get," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 157-173, January.
    5. Hiriart, Yolande & Martimort, David & Pouyet, Jerome, 2004. "On the optimal use of ex ante regulation and ex post liability," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 231-235, August.
    6. G.G.A. de Geest & G. Dari Mattiacci, 2005. "Soft Regulators, though judges," Working Papers 05-06, Utrecht School of Economics.
    7. 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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    Cited by:

    1. Andrzej Baniak & Peter Grajzl, 2016. "Controlling Product Risks when Consumers Are Heterogeneously Overconfident: Producer Liability versus Minimum-Quality-Standard Regulation," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 172(2), pages 274-304, June.
    2. Pierre Bentata & Yolande Hiriart, 2015. "Biased Judges: Evidence from French Environmental Cases," Working Papers hal-01377922, HAL.
    3. Andrzej Baniak & Peter Grajzl, 2014. "Controlling Product Risks when Consumers are Heterogeneously Overconfident: Producer Liability vs. Minimum Quality Standard Regulation," CESifo Working Paper Series 5003, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K13 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Tort Law and Product Liability; Forensic Economics
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law
    • K41 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Litigation Process
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation

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