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Legal change and the social value of lawsuits


  • Miceli, Thomas J.


This paper integrates the literatures on the social value of lawsuits, the evolution of the law, and judicial preferences to evaluate the hypothesis that the law evolves toward efficiency. The setting is a simple accident model with costly litigation where the efficient law minimizes the sum of accident plus litigation costs. The analysis shows that the law will not generally evolve completely toward any one rule, but will reach a steady state equilibrium in which the distribution of rules depends both on the selective litigation effect and the nature of judicial bias. The analysis also links legal change with the social value of lawsuits to allow an explicit evaluation of the lawmaking function of trials.

Suggested Citation

  • Miceli, Thomas J., 2010. "Legal change and the social value of lawsuits," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 203-208, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:30:y:2010:i:3:p:203-208

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Shavell, Steven, 1997. "The Fundamental Divergence between the Private and the Social Motive to Use the Legal System," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 575-612, June.
    2. Lucian Arye Bebchuk, 1984. "Litigation and Settlement under Imperfect Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(3), pages 404-415, Autumn.
    3. Gennaioli, Nicola & Shleifer, Andrei, 2007. "Overruling and the instability of law," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 309-328, June.
    4. Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2007. "The Evolution of Common Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 43-68.
    5. Hylton, Keith N., 1990. "The influence of litigation costs on deterrence under strict liability and under negligence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 161-171, September.
    6. Fon, Vincy & Parisi, Francesco, 2003. "Litigation and the Evolution of Legal Remedies: A Dynamic Model," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 116(3-4), pages 419-433, September.
    7. Shavell, Steven, 1999. "The level of litigation: private versus social optimality of suit and of settlement," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 99-115, March.
    8. Cohen, Mark A, 1991. "Explaining Judicial Behavior or What's "Unconstitutional" about the Sentencing Commission?," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 183-199, Spring.
    9. Whitman, Douglas Glen, 2000. "Evolution of the Common Law and the Emergence of Compromise," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 753-781, June.
    10. Shavell, Steven, 1996. "Any Frequency of Plaintiff Victory at Trial Is Possible," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(2), pages 493-501, June.
    11. Vincy Fon & Francesco Parisi & Ben Depoorter, 2005. "Litigation, Judicial Path-Dependence, and Legal Change," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 43-56, July.
    12. William M. Landes, 1974. "An Economic Analysis of the Courts," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 164-214 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Miceli, Thomas J. & Cosgel, Metin M., 1994. "Reputation and judicial decision-making," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 31-51, January.
    14. Keith N. Hylton, 2006. "Information, Litigation, and Common Law Evolution," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 33-61.
    15. George L. Priest & Benjamin Klein, 1984. "The Selection of Disputes for Litigation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(1), pages 1-56, January.
    16. Thomas J. Miceli, 2009. "Legal Change: Selective Litigation, Judicial Bias, and Precedent," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 157-168, January.
    17. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye, 1988. "Suing Solely to Extract a Settlement Offer," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(2), pages 437-450, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pierre Bentata & Yolande Hiriart, 2015. "Biased Judges: Evidence from French Environmental Cases," Working Papers hal-01377922, HAL.
    2. Rustam Romaniuc, 2012. "Judicial Dissent under Externalities and Incomplete Information," Czech Economic Review, Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Economic Studies, vol. 6(3), pages 209-224, October.
    3. Keith N. Hylton & Haizhen Lin, 2009. "Trial Selection Theory: A Unified Model," Working Papers 2009-06, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.

    More about this item


    Efficiency of the law Judicial decision making Legal change Precedent Selection effect Value of lawsuits;

    JEL classification:

    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General
    • K41 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Litigation Process


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