A Skeptical Attitude about Product Liability is Justified

Details

Author(s):
  • Mitchell Polinsky
Publish Date:
June 30, 2010
Publication Title:
Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 399
Format:
Working Paper
Citation(s):
  • A. Mitchell Polinsky, Steven Shavell, A Skeptical Attitude about Product Liability is Justified: A Reply to Professors Goldberg and Zipursky, Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 399 (2010).

Abstract

In The Uneasy Case for Product Liability, we maintained that the benefits of product liability are likely to be less than its costs for many products, especially widely sold ones. Our article was intended to alter the dominant view held by the judiciary and commentators that product liability has a clear justification on grounds of public policy. We argued instead that a skeptical attitude toward product liability should be adopted.

Professors John Goldberg and Benjamin Zipursky strongly criticize our article in The Easy Case for Products Liability Law: A Response to Professors Polinsky and Shavell. To a significant extent, however, they attack a straw man, for they impute to us a radical thesis – that product liability should be eliminated for all widely sold products – that we manifestly did not advance. In fact, we argued that whether product liability is undesirable depends on the particular product. Goldberg and Zipursky also ascribe to us other opinions that exaggerate what we said in our article – notably, they state that we believe that product liability has no beneficial effect on product safety for widely sold products. It is not surprising, therefore, that they are unable to support these mischaracterizations with citations to statements in our article.

The major claim that Goldberg and Zipursky develop is that our benefit-cost analysis fails to demonstrate that the case for product liability is uneasy. In our view, their critique is deficient on multiple accounts, including that it contains numerous distortions and errors, and hence does not alter our original conclusion..