Kenneth S. Abraham

  • David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law

Kenneth Abraham is one of the nation’s leading scholars and teachers in the fields of torts and insurance law. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a life member of the American Law Institute. For 20 years he served on the Council of the ALI — the board of lawyers, judges and academics that governs the Institute. He is also an adviser to the ALI’s Restatement of Torts (Third) and Restatement of the Law of Liability Insurance. He has served on a number of other boards and commissions concerned with tort law and insurance reform.

Abraham is a recipient of the All-University of Virginia Outstanding Teacher Award, the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Certificate from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for "outstanding achievement in teaching, research and public service,” and the American Bar Association's Robert B. McKay Law Professor Award, given for "outstanding contributions to tort and insurance law." He has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and Case Western Reserve Law School.

Abraham is the author of more than 60 law review articles and five books. His first book, "Distributing Risk: Insurance, Legal Theory, and Public Policy" (1986), brought modern legal theory to the study of insurance law. His torts treatise, "The Forms and Functions of Tort Law" (5th ed. 2017), has become a basic text for first-year law students across the country. And his casebook, "Insurance Law and Regulation" (6th ed. 2015) has been used as the principal text in courses on insurance law in more than 100 American law schools.

Abraham has been a consulting counsel and an expert witness in a variety of major insurance coverage cases, involving commercial general liability, directors and officers liability, environmental cleanup liability, toxic tort and products liability, and property insurance claims. He has also served as an arbitrator for the Dalkon Shield Claimants Trust, resolving over 100 claims by women seeking damages for injuries caused by the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device, both in the United States and Europe.

Scholarship Profile: Insurance Law's Practical Theorist (Virginia Journal 1998)


  • J.D.
    Yale Law School
  • A.B.
    Indiana University


The Forms and Functions of Tort Law (Foundation Press, 5th ed. 2017).

Insurance Law & Regulation: Cases and Materials (Foundation Press, 6th ed. 2015, co-authored with Daniel Schwartz).

The Forms and Functions of Tort Law (Foundation Press, 4th ed. 2012).

Insurance Law and Regulation: Cases and Materials (Foundation Press, 5th ed. 2010).

The Liability Century: Insurance and Tort Law from the Progressive Era to 9/11 (Harvard University Press, 2008).

The Forms and Functions of Tort Law (Foundation Press, 1997; 3d ed. 2007).

A Concise Restatement of Torts (ed.) (American Law Institute, 2000).

Environmental Liability Insurance Law (Prentice Hall Law & Business, 1991).

Distributing Risk: Insurance, Legal Theory, and Public Policy (Yale University Press, 1986).

Articles and Book Chapters:

"There’s No Such Thing as Affirmative Duty,"(with Leslie Kendrick) (2018).

"Automated Vehicles and Manufacturer Responsibility for Accidents: A New Legal Regime for a New Era," (with Robert L. Rabin) Va. L. Rev., (forthcoming).

"The Puzzle of the Dignitary Torts," (with G.Edward White) Cornell L. Rev., (forthcoming).

"Tort Luck and Liability Insurance," 70 Rutgers U. L. Rev. 1 (2017).  
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“Recovering Wagner v. International Railway Company” (with G. Edward White), 34 Touro L. Rev. 21 (2018).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“The Transformation of the Civil Trial and the Emergence of American Tort Law” (with G. Edward White), 59 Ariz. L. Rev. 431 (2017).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Prosser’s The Fall of the Citadel,” 100 Minn. L. Rev. 1823 (2016).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Classification Risk and Its Regulation” (with Pierre-André Chiappori), in Daniel Schwarcz & Peter Siegelman, eds., Research Handbook on the Economics of Insurance Law 290 (Edward Elgar, 2015).

Insurance Law and Regulation (with Daniel Schwarcz) (Foundation Press, 6th ed. 2015).

"Jefferson's Fire Insurance Policy and Monticello's Reconstruction of Slavery," 19 Green Bag 2d 11 (2015).

"The Liability Insurer's Duty to Settle Uncertain and Mixed Claims," 68 Rutgers U. L. Rev. 337 (2015).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

"Risk Aversion, Insurance Insurance, and the Limits of Regulation," 5 U.C. Irvine L. Rev. 513 (2015).

Review of Rob Merkin & Jenny Steele, Insurance and the Law of Obligations (2013), 5 J. Eur. Tort L. 356 (2014).

“Tribute to Judge Guido Calabresi,” 70 Ann. Surv. Am. L. 19 (2014).

“Four Conceptions of Insurance,” 161 U. Pa. L. Rev. 653 (2013).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Prosser and His Influence," (with G. Edward White) 6 J. Tort Law 27 (2013).

"Self-Proving Causation," 99 Va. L. Rev. 1811 (2013).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“Liability for Bad Faith and the Principle Without a Name (Yet),” 19 Conn. Ins. L.J. 1 (2012).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Strict Liability in Negligence,” 61 DePaul L. Rev. 271 (2012).
HeinOnline (PDF) | SSRN

"Four Conceptions of Insurance," U. Penn. L. Rev. (forthcoming). (Winner of the 2011-12 Boston College Law School Liberty Mutual Prize)

“Catastrophic Oil Spills and the Problem of Insurance,” 64 Vand. L. Rev. 1770 (2011).
HeinOnline (PDF) | SSRN

"Lessons Learned from the History of Corporate Liability Insurance in the United States," 35 Geneva Papers on Risk & Insurance 364 (2010).

"Custom, Noncustomary Practice, and Negligence," 109 Colum. L. Rev. 1784 (2009).

"Stable Divisions of Authority," 44 Wake Forest L. Rev. 963 (2009).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Insufficient Analysis of Insufficient Activity," 108 Mich L. Rev. First Impressions 24 (2009).

"The Common Law Prohibition on Party Testimony and the Development of Tort Liability," 95 Va. L. Rev. 489 (2009).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

"The Uses of Accident Law’s Past," 1 J. Tort L. (2006).

"Twenty-First-Century Insurance and Loss Distribution in Tort Law," in M. Stuart Madden, ed., Exploring Tort Law 81 (2005).

"Liability Insurance and Accident Prevention: The Evolution of an Idea," 64 Md. L. Rev. 573 (2005).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Liability for Acts of Terrorism under U.S. Law,” in Bernhard A. Koch, ed., Terrorism, Tort Law and Insurance: A Comparative Survey 176 (Springer, 2004).

"The Genie and the Bottle: Collateral Sources Under the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund" (with Kyle Logue), 53 DePaul L. Rev. 591 (2004).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

"The Lawlessness of Arbitration" (with J.W. Montgomery III), 5 Conn. Ins. L.J. 355 (2003).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

"Rylands v. Fletcher: Tort Law’s Conscience," in Robert L. Rabin & Stephan Sugarman, eds., Torts Stories (West Law School, 2003).

“Eventi Catastrofali Prevedibilita E Assicurabilità: Mito E Realtà Negli Stati Uniti Dopo L’11 Settembre [Catastrophe, Predictability, and Insurability: Post 9/11 Myth and Reality in the United States],” Anno XLIV Fasc. 3-4 Diritto ed Economia dell'Assicurazione [“Insurance Law & Economics"] 651 (2002).

"Gaunt," 2 Nev. L. J. 312 (2002).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“The Insurance Effects of Regulation by Litigation,” in W. Kip Viscusi, ed., Regulation Through Litigation 212 (AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, 2002).

"Liability for Medical Monitoring and the Problem of Limits," 88 Va. L. Rev. 1975 (2002).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“The Relation Between Civil Liability and Environmental Regulation: An Analytical Overview,” 41 Washburn L.J. 379 (2002) (The 2002 Ahrens Lecture at the Washburn Law School).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Talking Torts,” 50 UCLA L. Rev. 261 (2002).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Peril and Fortuity in Property and Liability Insurance," 36 Tort & Ins. L. J. 777 (2001).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"The Rise and Fall of Commercial Liability Insurance," 87 Va. L. Rev. 85 (2001).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"The Trouble with Negligence," 54 Vand. L. Rev. 1187 (2001).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

"Understanding Prohibitions Against Genetic Discrimination in Insurance," 40 Jurimetrics 123 (2000).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"The Expectations Principle as a Regulative Ideal," 5 Conn. Ins. L.J. 59 (1999).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Allocation of Settlements in Multi-Insurer Coverage Disputes," 48 Fed'n Ins. & Corp. Couns. Q. 427 (1998).

"The Maze of Mega-Coverage Litigation," 97 Colum. L. Rev. 2102 (1997).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"A Theory of Insurance Policy Interpretation," 95 Mich. L. Rev. 531 (1996).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"The Natural History of the Insurer's Liability for Bad Faith," 72 Tex. L. Rev. 1295 (1994).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Enterprise Medical Liability and the Choice of the Responsible Enterprise" (with P. Weiler), 20 Am. J. L. & Med. 29 (1994).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Enterprise Medical Liability and the Evolution of the American Health-Care System" (with P. Weiler), 108 Harv. L. Rev. 381 (1994).
Heinlein Online (PDF)

"Cleaning Up the Environmental Liability Insurance Mess," 27 Val. U. L. Rev. 601 (1993).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Enterprise Responsibility for Personal Injury: Further Reflections" (with R. Rabin and P. Weiler), 30 San Diego L. Rev. 333 (1993).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Private Insurance, Social Insurance, and Tort Reform: Toward a New Vision of Compensation for Illness and Injury" (with L. Liebman), 93 Colum. L. Rev. 75 (1993).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Collective Justice in Tort Law" (with G. Robinson), 78 Va. L. Rev. 1481 (1992).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"What Is a Tort Claim: An Interpretation of Contemporary Tort Reform," 51 Md. L. Rev. 172 (1992).
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"The Once and Future Crisis," 4 J. Risk & Uncertainty 353 (1991).

"'Second Generation' Issues in Environmental Liability Insurance Litigation," 3 Envtl. Claims J. 309 (1991).

"Aggregative Valuation of Mass Tort Claims" (with Glen O. Robinson), 53 L. & Contemp. Probs. 137 (1990).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Products Liability Law and Insurance Profitability," 19 J. Legal Stud. 837 (1990).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Punitive Damages and the Rule of Law: The Role of the Defendant's Wealth," 18 J. Legal Stud. 415 (1989).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"The Causes of the Insurance Crisis," in W. Olson, ed., New Directions in Liability Law (Academy of Political Science, 1988).

"Environmental Liability and the Limits of Insurance," 88 Colum. L. Rev. 942 (1988).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"The Insurance Implications of Administrative Compensation Schemes," 25 Hous. L. Rev. 817 (1988).
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"Medical Liability Reform: A Conceptual Framework," 260 J.A.M.A. 68 (1988).

"Redistributional Issues in the Privatization of Government Insurance Programs," 11 Geo. Mason U. L. Rev. 151 (1988).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Individual Action and Collective Responsibility: The Dilemma of Mass Tort Reform," 73 Va. L. Rev. 845 (1987).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Making Sense of the Liability Insurance Crisis," 48 Ohio St. L.J. 399 (1987).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Principle and Pragmatism in the compensation Debate," review of Stapleton, Disease and the Compensation Debate, 7 Oxford J. Legal Stud. 302 (1987).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"The Costs of Attitudes," review of Calabresi, Ideals, Beliefs, Attitudes and the Law, 95 Yale L. J. 1043 (1986).
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"Scientific Uncertainty in the Courts" (with Richard Merrill), 2 Issues in Sci. & Tech. 93 (1986).

"Efficiency and Fairness in Insurance Risk Classification," 71 Va. L. Rev. 403 (1985).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Adopting Comparative Negligence: Some Thoughts for the Late Reformer," 41 Md. L. Rev. 300 (1982).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Cost Internalization, Insurance, and Toxic Tort Compensation Funds," 2 Va. J. Nat. Res. L. 123 (1982).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Alternatives to the Tort System for the Non-Medical Professions: Can They Do the Job?," 1981 B.Y.U. L. Rev. 57.
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Judge-Made Law and Judge-Made Insurance: Honoring the Reasonable Expectations of the Insured," 67 Va. L. Rev. 1151 (1981).
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Review of R. Burt, Taking Care of Strangers, 169 J. Nerv. & Ment. Dis. 740 (1981).

"Three Fallacies of Interpretation: A Comment on Precedent and Judicial Decision," 23 Ariz. L. Rev. 771 (1981).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Observations on Medical Malpractice: A Look at Performance Patterns Among Attorneys and Physicians" (with Kirson), Md. Med. J. (Nov. 1980).

Review of Unger, Knowledge and Politics and Law in Modern Society, 94 MLN 1202 (1979).

"Statutory Interpretation and Literary Theory: Some Common Concerns of an Unlikely Pair," in S. Levenson and S. Mailloux, eds., Interpreting Law and Literature (1988); first published in 32 Rutgers L. Rev. 676 (1979).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Medical Malpractice Reform: A Preliminary Analysis," 36 Md. L. Rev. 489 (1977).
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"The Public's Emerging Right to Know," 1975 Md. B. J. 38.


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Insurance Law
Tort Theory (seminar)



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