Enterprise Responsibility for Person Injury: Further Reflections
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
The American Law Institute (ALI) commissioned its study of Enterprise Responsibility for Personal Injury (the Study) in the mid- 1980s in the midst of widespread concern about spiralling insurance premiums charged to people and businesses lucky enough to find any tort liability coverage. When our Study finally appeared in the early 1990s, litigation and premium rates had plateaued and in some sectors were even dropping. If anything, however, debates about the tort crisis had by that time become even more strident in tone. Thus, after listening to intense exchanges between members of the plaintiff and defense bars at its annual meeting in 1991, the American Law Institute's Council decided to duck the fundamental policy questions we had raised about reforming tort litigation and to confine further Institute deliberations to restating tort doctrine.
No doubt, the ALI leadership felt confirmed in its judgment that discretion was the better part of valor when, shortly thereafter, the tort system became a _prominent topic on the national political agenda. A crucial moment was Vice President Dan Quayle's controversial address in August 1991 to the American Bar Association. In his address, the Vice President decried the "fact" that the United States had seventy percent of the world's lawyers who were generating a $300 billion annual tort bill.2 Lawyers in tasselled loafers - as President George Bush derisively labelled them - had become one of the last groups whom it was still politically correct to insult during the 1992 election campaign.
With the new Clinton Administration in place (and with lawyers more than well represented), we fondly hope that our Study will contribute to a more reasoned debate about the role tort liability should play in our law and lives. The Study's overview of the legal, social, and economic issues, together with a full list of our recommendations for reform, are reproduced at the beginning of this Symposium issue of the San Diego Law Review. In this article we shall offer some further reflections about specific areas and proposals in the Study that have evoked important questions and comments.