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Realistic Standards: Optimal Negligence with Limited Liability

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  • Juan José Ganuza
  • Fernando Gómez

Abstract

We study the standard economic model of unilateral accidents under the assumption that the injurers have limited assets. We identify a second-best optimal rule that selects as due care the minimum of first-best care and a level of care that takes into account the wealth of the injurer. We show that such a rule in fact maximizes the precautionary effort by a potential injurer. The idea is counterintuitive: being softer on an injurer, in terms of the required level of care, actually improves the incentives when he or she is potentially insolvent. We extend the basic result to an entire population of potentially insolvent injurers and find that the optimal general standards of care do depend on wealth and the distribution of income. We also show that, under certain conditions, wealthier populations should be subject to higher general standards of care in the case of accidents. (c) 2008 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation

  • Juan José Ganuza & Fernando Gómez, 2008. "Realistic Standards: Optimal Negligence with Limited Liability," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(2), pages 577-594, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:37:y:2008:i:2:p:577-594
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. T. Randolph Beard, 1990. "Bankruptcy and Care Choice," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(4), pages 626-634, Winter.
    2. Miceli, Thomas J & Segerson, Kathleen, 1995. "Defining Efficient Care: The Role of Income Distribution," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(1), pages 189-208, January.
    3. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1994. "Why the Legal System Is Less Efficient Than the Income Tax in Redistributing Income," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 667-681, June.
    4. Boyd, James & Ingberman, Daniel E, 1994. "Noncompensatory Damages and Potential Insolvency," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 895-910, June.
    5. Dye, Ronald A, 1993. "Auditing Standards, Legal Liability, and Auditor Wealth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(5), pages 887-914, October.
    6. Pitchford, Rohan, 1995. "How Liable Should a Lender Be? The Case of Judgment-Proof Firms and Environmental Risk," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1171-1186, December.
    7. Ringleb, Al H & Wiggins, Steven N, 1990. "Liability and Large-Scale, Long-term Hazards," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 574-595, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stremitzer, Alexander & Tabbach, Avraham, 2009. "Insolvency and Biased Standards - The Case for Proportional Liability," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 289, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    2. Friehe, Tim, 2009. "Precaution v. avoidance: A comparison of liability rules," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(3), pages 214-216, December.
    3. Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe & Langlais, Eric, 2012. "Social Wealth and Optimal Care," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 271-284.
    4. Farmer, Amy & Pecorino, Paul, 2017. "Litigation with judgment proof defendants," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 1-9.
    5. Barbara Luppi & Francesco Parisi, 2016. "Optimal liability for optimistic tortfeasors," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 559-574, June.
    6. Juan José Ganuza & Fernando Gomez, 2011. "Soft Negligence Standards and the Strategic Choice of Firm Size," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(2), pages 439-466.
    7. Baniak Andrzej & Grajzl Peter, 2011. "Interjurisdictional Linkages and the Scope for Interventionist Legal Harmonization," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 7(2), pages 405-434, December.
    8. Arbel, Yonathan A., 2016. "Shielding of assets and lending contracts," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 26-35.
    9. Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci & Barbara M. Mangan, 2008. "Disappearing Defendants versus Judgment-Proof Injurers," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 75(300), pages 749-765, November.
    10. Loeper, Antoine, 2011. "Coordination in heterogeneous federal systems," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 900-912, August.

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