IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Total Liability for Excessive Harm

  • Robert Cooter
  • Ariel Porat
Registered author(s):

    The total social harm caused by everyone is often verifiable, and the harm that each actor causes is often unverifiable. In these circumstances, the authorities lack the information necessary to implement the usual liability rules or externality taxes. We propose a novel solution: hold each participant in the activity responsible for all of the excessive harm that everyone causes. By excessive harm we mean the difference between the total harm caused by all injurers and the optimal total harm. We show that the rule of total liability for excessive harm creates incentives for efficient precaution and activity level. Consequently, actual harm is not excessive and actual liability is nil. The authorities gain control over social harm without having to monitor individuals, and individuals do not have to pay damages or conform to bureaucratic regulations. This rule has many practical advantages, especially in cases involving harm to the environment.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Legal Studies.

    Volume (Year): 36 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 1 (01)
    Pages: 63-80

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:36:y:2007:p:63-80
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:36:y:2007:p:63-80. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Journals Division)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.