The Missing Theory of Variable Selection in the Economic Analysis of Tort Law

31 Pages Posted: 23 May 2007 Last revised: 17 Feb 2013

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 1, 2006


The Article argues that the economic analysis of tort law has yet to satisfactorily answer a critical threshold question: which of the many inputs that lead to an accident should be included in a court's liability analysis? As a result of this missing theory, the economic analysis of tort law provides indeterminate prescriptions. The Article shows how three separate areas of the literature can be seen as being about the general problem of which variables to include in the liability test and the tension between short- and long-run optima. The Article proposes an analytical framework - a continuum from short- to long-run - to understand the problem and show the way in which courts have crafted tort law doctrines to address the issue. Finally, the Article concludes that no satisfactory general theory is possible and that the optimal combination of liability rules will depend upon empirical questions about specific accident contexts.

Keywords: tort, law and economics

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Anderson, James M., The Missing Theory of Variable Selection in the Economic Analysis of Tort Law (April 1, 2006). 2007 Utah L. Rev. 255 (2007), Available at SSRN: or

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