Two preeminent legal scholars explain what tort law is all about and why it matters, and describe their own view of tort’s philosophical basis: civil recourse theory.
Tort law is badly misunderstood. In the popular imagination, it is “Robin Hood” law. Law professors, meanwhile, mostly dismiss it as an archaic, inefficient way to compensate victims and incentivize safety precautions. In Recognizing Wrongs, John Goldberg and Benjamin Zipursky explain the distinctive and important role that tort law plays in our legal system: it defines injurious wrongs and provides victims with the power to respond to those wrongs civilly.
Tort law rests on a basic and powerful ideal: a person who has been mistreated by another in a manner that the law forbids is entitled to an avenue of civil recourse against the wrongdoer. Through tort law, government fulfills its political obligation to provide this law of wrongs and redress. In Recognizing Wrongs, Goldberg and Zipursky systematically explain how their “civil recourse” conception makes sense of tort doctrine and captures the ways in which the law of torts contributes to the maintenance of a just polity.
Recognizing Wrongs aims to unseat both the leading philosophical theory of tort law—corrective justice theory—and the approaches favored by the law-and-economics movement. It also sheds new light on central figures of American jurisprudence, including former Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Benjamin Cardozo. In the process, it addresses hotly contested contemporary issues in the law of damages, defamation, malpractice, mass torts, and products liability.
Recognizing Wrongs is powerful and elegant. It proposes that civil recourse simultaneously best explains actual tort practice and presents this practice in its best light, as part of what free and equal citizens demand from their government as a condition of recognizing its legitimacy. Goldberg and Zipursky combine a subtle appreciation for doctrine with powerful theoretical arguments. A major achievement.
Recognizing Wrongs will be of interest to everyone who studies tort law and to many who practice it. Goldberg and Zipursky are the best in the business. This book is historically rich, theoretically sophisticated, and is bound to be a touchstone for tort theory for decades to come.
The most important work in tort theory in the contemporary period. If you teach or write on tort law, you really must read this book.
Sophisticated, wide-ranging, and multilayered: it intelligently traverses medieval English history, the Declaration of Independence, the philosophy of language, the Lockean state of nature, Internet libel, the influence of legal realism on legal education, corrective justice, and much more…As much an account of legal reasoning as it is an account of tort law.
A highly readable conspectus of roughly two decades’ worth of first-rate tort theory. The breadth and depth of learning on offer in this book is as impressive as it is skillfully deployed…Comes as close to being a ‘page-turner’ as a work of legal theory is ever likely to get…Just about the best book on tort theory for many, many years.
Excellent…I highly recommend Recognizing Wrongs as a fascinating analysis of a distinctive normative system…An impressive and rich account of tort law…The purpose of the institution of tort law is to remedy legal wrongs that take place between private actors. It is not another branch of regulatory law. Unless we keep that in mind, tort reform may leave victims without remedies. By providing a robust interpretation of torts as wrongs, Goldberg and Zipursky make a major contribution to these debates.
- 2023, Winner of the Civil Justice Scholarship Award
- 392 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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