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Relative performance of liability rules: experimental evidence


  • Vera Angelova


  • Olivier Armantier


  • Giuseppe Attanasi


  • Yolande Hiriart



We compare the performance of liability rules for managing environmental disasters when third parties are harmed and cannot always be compensated. A firm can invest in safety to reduce the likelihood of accidents. The firm’s investment is unobservable to authorities. The presence of externalities and asymmetric information call for public intervention in order to define rules aimed at increasing prevention. We determine the investments in safety under No Liability, Strict Liability, and Negligence rules, and compare these to the first best. Additionally, we investigate how the (dis)ability of the firm to fully cover potential damage affects the firm’s behavior. An experiment tests the theoretical predictions. In line with theory, Strict Liability and Negligence are equally effective; both perform better than No Liability; investment in safety is not sensitive to the ability of the firm to compensate potential victims. In contrast with theory, however, prevention rates absent liability are much higher and liability is much less effective. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:theord:v:77:y:2014:i:4:p:531-556 DOI: 10.1007/s11238-013-9405-0

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Pierre Bentata, 2014. "Liability as a complement to environmental regulation: an empirical study of the French legal system," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Springer;Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 16(3), pages 201-228, July.
    2. Fluet, Claude & Galbiati, Rpbertp, 2016. "Lois et normes : les enseignements de l'économie comportementale," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 92(1-2), pages 191-215, Mars-Juin.
    3. Claude-Denys Fluet & Romain Espinosa & Bruno Deffains, 2017. "Laws and Norms: Experimental Evidence with Liability Rules," Cahiers de recherche 1705, Centre de recherche sur les risques, les enjeux économiques, et les politiques publiques.
    4. 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.
    5. Pierre Bentata & Karim Barkat, 2012. "Environmental Liability and Regulation: An Empirical Study of the French Institutional Division of Labour," CAE Working Papers 98, Aix-Marseille Université, CERGAM.
    6. Nicolas Lampach & Kene Boun My & Sandrine Spaeter, 2016. "Risk, Ambiguity and Efficient Liability Rules: An experiment," Working Papers of BETA 2016-30, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    7. Serge Garcia & Julien Jacob & Eve-Angéline Lambert, 2017. "Comparison of liability sharing rules for environmental damage: An experiment with different levels of solvency," Working Papers of BETA 2017-12, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.

    More about this item


    Risk regulation; Liability rules; Incentives; Insolvency; Experiment; D82; K13; K32; Q58;

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • 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
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy


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