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Incentives to Settle Under Joint and Several Liability

  • Howard F. Chang
  • Hilary Sigman

Congress may soon restrict joint and several liability for cleanup of contaminated sites under Superfund. We explore whether this change would discourage settlements and is therefore likely to increase the program's already high litigation costs. Recent theoretical research by Kornhauser and Revesz finds that joint and several liability may either encourage or discourage settlement, depending upon the correlation of outcomes at trial across defendants. We extend their two-defendant model to a richer framework with N defendants. This extension allows us to test the theoretical model empirically using data on Superfund litigation. We find that joint and several liability does not discourage settlements and may even encourage them. Our results support the model's predictions about the effects of several variables, such as the degree of correlation in trial outcomes.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7096.

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Date of creation: Apr 1999
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Publication status: published as Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 29, no. 1 (January 2000): 205-236.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7096
Note: PE
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  1. Klerman, Daniel, 1996. "Settling Multidefendant Lawsuits: The Advantage of Conditional Setoff Rules," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(2), pages 445-62, June.
  2. Easterbrook, Frank H & Landes, William M & Posner, Richard A, 1980. "Contribution among Antitrust Defendants: A Legal and Economic Analysis," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 331-70, October.
  3. Guilkey, David K. & Murphy, James L., 1993. "Estimation and testing in the random effects probit model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 301-317, October.
  4. Spier, Kathryn E, 1992. "The Dynamics of Pretrial Negotiation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(1), pages 93-108, January.
  5. Theodore Eisenberg & Henry S. Farber, 1996. "The Litigious Plaintiff Hypothesis: Case Selection and Resolution," NBER Working Papers 5649, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Tom H. Tietenberg, 1989. "Indivisible Toxic Torts: The Economics of Joint and Several Liability," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 65(4), pages 305-319.
  7. Spier, Kathryn E, 1994. "A Note on Joint and Several Liability: Insolvency, Settlement, and Incentives," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 559-68, January.
  8. Kessler, Daniel, 1996. "Institutional Causes of Delay in the Settlement of Legal Disputes," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 432-60, October.
  9. Kornhauser, Lewis A & Revesz, Richard L, 1994. "Multidefendant Settlements: The Impact of Joint and Several Liability," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 41-76, January.
  10. Kahan, Marcel, 1996. "The incentive effects of settlements under joint and several liability," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 389-395, December.
  11. Donohue, John J, III, 1994. "The Effect of Joint and Several Liability on the Settlement Rate--Mathematical Symmetries and Metaissues about Rational Litigant Behavior: Comment," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 543-58, January.
  12. Kiefer, Nicholas M, 1988. "Economic Duration Data and Hazard Functions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 646-79, June.
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