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Civil Wrongs and Justice in Private Law$
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Paul B. Miller and John Oberdiek

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190865269

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190865269.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 June 2021

Is Tort Law “Private”?

Is Tort Law “Private”?

(p.351) 16 Is Tort Law “Private”?
Civil Wrongs and Justice in Private Law

Gregory C. Keating

Oxford University Press

This chapter contends that modern tort law is not “private law” in the distinctive way in which that term is now used. Theorists of tort as “private law” tend to regard its domain as one-off collisions among individual persons as they pursue their particular purposes, each in his or her individual, idiosyncratic, and voluntary way. Modern tort law, however, emerged in response to the rise of accidental harm as a pressing social problem. This chapter argues that refocusing on accidental harm as a basic feature of an industrial civilization prompted tort law to undergo a significant but underappreciated transformation in which harm is as salient as wrong and conceptions of collective responsibility compete with individual responsibility for control of the field. Trenchantly challenging the most basic commitments of the Kantian conception of tort law championed by Ernest Weinrib and Arthur Ripstein, this chapter maintains that there is nothing fundamentally private about tort law.

Keywords:   tort law, modern tort law, accidental harm, accidents as social problem, tort law history

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