IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Environmental Regulation and Civil Liability Under Causal Uncertainty: An Empirical Study of the French Legal System


  • Pierre Bentata

    () (CERGAM-CAE, Aix-Marseille Université)

  • Karim Barkat

    () (CERGAM-CAE, Aix-Marseille Université)


The key question in this paper is to determine whether regulation and regulators information can help solving causal uncertainty problems in liability. A widely held view among Law & Economics scholars is that civil liability alone is not well-suited to cope with environmental accidents, especially where causation is uncertain or costly to establish. Instead of a simple civil liability rule, it is therefore advocated that a regulatory system be implemented combined with a public insurance scheme, or, alternatively, to go for a mix of regulation and civil liability. Such a mix of regulation and civil liability prevails in French law and this article presents an original analysis of French courts decisions concerning cases of environmental accidents for which causation was uncertain and regulators were not able to control for levels of organizational and human care. The dataset covers more than fifty years of trials outcomes from the highest civil and criminal court in France – Cour de Cassation. We found evidence that the regulation/liability mix increases efficiency, the regulation providing a new way to address causal uncertainty at the liability stage. We show that such increase in efficiency is mainly due to a transfer of information from regulators to judges and to the adoption by judges of a probabilistic approach to causation.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre Bentata & Karim Barkat, 2012. "Environmental Regulation and Civil Liability Under Causal Uncertainty: An Empirical Study of the French Legal System," CAE Working Papers 97, Aix-Marseille Université, CERGAM.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgm:wpaper:97

    Download full text from publisher

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2000. "On the joint use of liability and safety regulation," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 371-382, September.
    3. Hiriart, Yolande & Martimort, David & Pouyet, Jerome, 2010. "The public management of risk: Separating ex ante and ex post monitors," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1008-1019, December.
    4. Hiriart, Yolande & Martimort, David & Pouyet, Jerome, 2004. "On the optimal use of ex ante regulation and ex post liability," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 231-235, August.
    5. Hutchinson, Emma & van 't Veld, Klaas, 2005. "Extended liability for environmental accidents: what you see is what you get," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 157-173, January.
    6. G.G.A. de Geest & G. Dari Mattiacci, 2005. "Soft Regulators, though judges," Working Papers 05-06, Utrecht School of Economics.
    7. Bhole, Bharat & Wagner, Jeffrey, 2008. "The joint use of regulation and strict liability with multidimensional care and uncertain conviction," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 123-132, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Andrzej Baniak & Peter Grajzl, 2016. "Controlling Product Risks when Consumers Are Heterogeneously Overconfident: Producer Liability versus Minimum-Quality-Standard Regulation," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 172(2), pages 274-304, June.
    2. Pierre Bentata & Yolande Hiriart, 2015. "Biased Judges: Evidence from French Environmental Cases," Working Papers hal-01377922, HAL.
    3. Andrzej Baniak & Peter Grajzl, 2014. "Controlling Product Risks when Consumers are Heterogeneously Overconfident: Producer Liability vs. Minimum Quality Standard Regulation," CESifo Working Paper Series 5003, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item


    Regulation; Liability; Environmental Risk; Causation; Institutional Design; Empirical studies; Courts decision;

    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • K41 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Litigation Process
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cgm:wpaper:97. 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: (Mathieu Bédard). General contact details of provider: .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.