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“Piggyback” lawsuits and deterrence: Can frivolous litigation improve welfare?

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  • Miceli, Thomas J.
  • Stone, Michael P.

Abstract

Previous literature on frivolous lawsuits has focused on litigation costs and the optimal settlement-trial decision of defendants, but has not examined how they affect deterrence. This paper considers whether there are circumstances under which frivolous suits might actually increase deterrence, and thereby possibly improve welfare. The reason this is possible is that in a costly legal system, injurers will generally be underdeterred because they will ignore the litigation costs of plaintiffs. The fact that some uninjured plaintiffs will succeed in obtaining settlements may therefore affect the care and activity choices of injurers in a socially valuable way.

Suggested Citation

  • Miceli, Thomas J. & Stone, Michael P., 2014. "“Piggyback” lawsuits and deterrence: Can frivolous litigation improve welfare?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 49-57.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:39:y:2014:i:c:p:49-57
    DOI: 10.1016/j.irle.2014.05.003
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Chang, Howard F, 1996. "An Analysis of Fee Shifting Based on the Margin of Victory: On Frivolous Suits, Meritorious Suits, and the Role of Rule 11," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(2), pages 371-403, June.
    3. Miceli, Thomas J, 1994. "Do Contingent Fees Promote Excessive Litigation?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 211-224, January.
    4. Craswell, Richard & Calfee, John E, 1986. "Deterrence and Uncertain Legal Standards," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(2), pages 279-303, Fall.
    5. Shavell, Steven, 1985. "Uncertainty over Causation and the Determination of Civil Liability," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(3), pages 587-609, October.
    6. Miceli, Thomas J., 1993. "Optimal deterrence of nuisance suits by repeat defendants," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 135-144, June.
    7. Katz, Avery, 1990. "The effect of frivolous lawsuits on the settlement of litigation," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 3-27, May.
    8. Rosenberg, D. & Shavell, S., 1985. "A model in which suits are brought for their nuisance value," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 3-13, June.
    9. 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.
    10. Hylton, Keith N, 1990. "Costly Litigation and Legal Error under Negligence," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 433-452, Fall.
    11. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Rubinfeld, Daniel L, 1988. "The Welfare Implications of Costly Litigation for the Level of Liability," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 151-164, January.
    12. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye, 1996. "A New Theory Concerning the Credibility and Success of Threats to Sue," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 1-25, January.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Frivolous lawsuits; Care; Activity level; Deterrence;

    JEL classification:

    • K13 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Tort Law and Product Liability; Forensic Economics
    • K41 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Litigation Process

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