Exploring Issues in Litigation Reform

May 02, 2006May 03, 2006
<p>B-339 Rayburn House Office Building</p>


Session One: Tuesday, May 2nd
Facts and Fiction of the Tort System
">Dr. Alexander Tabarrok
Professor of Economics
George Mason University

Session Two: Wednesday, May 3rd
White Collar Crime: Legal vs. Ethical Behavior
">Dr. John Hasnas
Associate Professor
Georgetown University

In the current congressional debate over tort reform, as is the case with most divisive issues, it is extremely important for policymakers to sort out fact from fiction. An effective tort system is vital to any healthy economy because it holds producers liable to consumers for the safety and quality of their goods. By compensating victims and holding injurers accountable for their actions, tort laws enhance overall economic performance and provide increased accountability to the consumer. Though the American public has clearly embraced these benefits, some argue that the effectiveness of the American tort system has so diminished that it now acts more as a tax which drains both producers and consumers of valuable resources, imposing excessive costs on society.

Similarly, as more white-collar crimes have been prosecuted over the past few years, some argue that new mandates now force employers to make a decision between acting legally or behaving ethically.  Clearly, corporate fraud cannot be excused, but ethical behavior must not be discouraged.  Unfortunately, an imbalance has been created between the intended benefits of litigation and the unintended consequences of its practice.

To address these issues and examine potential reforms, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University will host a two-day course to provide policymakers with a thoughtful economic analysis of litigation reform. Our scholars will incorporate fundamental economic principles with empirical evidence to address the following questions:

  • What can economics teach us about the most effective tort system? What role does a tort system play in a goods and services economy?
  • What is the role of juries in tort verdicts? How do location and culture affect verdicts? Would greater use of judges improve the system?
  • What do laws against white collar crime seek to achieve?  Are they effective? What incentives do the enforcement of these laws create for prosecutors, corporations and the accused?