Preponderance of evidence
This paper analyzes the incentive properties of the standard and burden of proof for a finding of negligence, when evidence about injurers' behavior is imperfect and rests with the parties. We show that the `preponderance of evidence' standard used in common law, together with ordinary exclusion rules defining legally admissible evidence, provides maximal incentives for potential tort-feasors to exert care. This holds even though, following the occurrence of harm, litigants have unequal access to evidence and may distort information in adversarial procedures. Abstracting from litigation costs, the optimal assignment of the burden of proof is shown to follow from the principle underlying the standard of proof. Our main results are derived in a mechanism design framework, but we also consider implementation as a sequential equilibrium with the court as a player in the game. Cet article analyse les propriétés incitatives du standard de preuve et de l'attribution de la charge de la preuve en responsabilité pour faute, lorsque l'information sur le comportement de l'auteur du dommage est imparfaite et relève des parties. Nous montrons que le standard de la « prépondérance de preuve » appliqué dans la common law, combiné aux règles d'exclusion définissant les faits admissibles en cour, fournit le maximum d'incitations à la prudence. Cette propriété est vérifiée même si, lorsque survient un dommage, les parties ont un accès inégal aux faits ou peuvent les présenter de manière partiale dans le cadre d'une procédure adversariale. Abstraction faite des coûts de litiges, l'attribution de la charge de la preuve s'explique également par le principe fondant le standard de preuve. Ces résultats sont obtenus comme propriétés d'un mécanisme optimal, mais nous analysons aussi la mise en oeuvre du mécanisme dans un équilibre séquentiel où le tribunal est modélisé comme un joueur.
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