Fairness and Utility in Tort Theory

Harvard Law Review 85 (3):537-573 (1972)
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Professor Fletcher challenges the traditional account of the development of tort doctrine as a shift from an unmoral standard of strict liability for directly causing harm to a moral standard based on fault. He then sets out two paradigms of liability to serve as constructs for understanding competing ideological viewpoints about the proper role of tort sanctions. He asserts that the paradigm of reciprocity, which looks only to the degree of risk imposed by the parties to a lawsuit on each other, and to the existence of possible excusing conditions, provides greater protection of individual interests than the paradigm of reasonableness, which assigns liability instrumentally on the basis of a utilitarian calculus. Finally, Professor Fletcher examines stylistic differences between the two paradigms which may explain the modern preference for the paradigm of reasonableness.


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