August 21, 2009
Quick Torts Quiz
Posted by Christine Hurt

So, I switched Torts books this year to Twerksi & Henderson's Torts:  Cases and Materials (2d ed. 2008).  I felt like using the same book for years was tricking my brain into a narrow view of the universe of Torts, so I thought switching books would freshen up my perspective.  So, in the Introduction, I find this sentence:

"Tort liabilities that run in the hundreds of billions of dollars have forced entire industries into bankruptcy."

So, here's the quiz:  Name two.

Putting aside the logical problem of concentrating on outliers and not medians, I went up and down my hall this morning asking my colleagues to name two industries.  The first one is obvious -- asbestos.  But what is the necessary second to get us to the plural of "industries"?  I guess it depends on how you define "industry."

Was there a first-generation IUD industry?  I think of that more as a product line, not an industry, but it is clear that the American birth control industry did not develop new products for this market for quite awhile.  Whether this was a product of tort litigation or political pressure (morning-after-pill) is a toss-up.  Saline breast implants -- same.  Nuclear power?  Close -- but I'm not sure we can blame (the threat of) tort litigation when regulation was the death knell.

Two thoughts.  One, for cases other than asbestos, where the tort judgment does not create the insolvency, there is one problem.  Huge tort lawsuits probably send a message to the market not to purchase the product or other products from the manufacturer.  (Tobacco being the anomaly, being an addictive product with inelastic demand.)  Second, do we bemoan the fate of the first-generation IUD?  Would we have preferred that product stay on the market?

Keep your industry examples coming.

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