Featured Print Articles
Volume 80, Issue 3 (more)
Article by J. Shahar Dillbary
This Article argues that mass torts involving multiple tortfeasors can be welfare enhancing. It begins by investigating the role of “dilution of liability”—a phenomenon that has been condemned for its role in facilitating accidents. According to the literature, in alternative care situations where the damage to the victim is constant, dilution of liability leads to inefficient precaution levels and consequently to more (bad) accidents. The Article deviates from this literature and shows that dilution of liability can be welfare enhancing. This is so even in the quintessential case where dilution of liability has been denounced. The Article further shows that an activity that is socially undesirable and should give rise to liability can become desirable as the number of tortfeasors increases. Put differently, it shows that in some situations an activity that would and should be condemned if conducted by one tortfeasor may become socially desirable if done by many. The Article analyzes the conditions under which such desirable “tortfests” occur, and it has important implications to the salience literature. After investigating the impact of tortfests on actors’ precaution and activity levels, the Article examines mechanisms that would incentivize actors, in certain situations, to join a group wrongdoing or combine with others to initiate one. The result, it is argued, could increase societal welfare.
80 U Chi L Rev 953 [Article PDF]
Article by Marin K. Levy
The Supreme Court has increasingly considered a particular kind of argument: that it should avoid reaching decisions that would “open the floodgates of litigation.” Despite its frequent invocation, there has been little scholarly exploration of what a floodgates argument truly means, and even less discussion of its normative basis. This Article addresses both subjects, demonstrating for the first time the scope and surprising variation of floodgates arguments, as well as uncovering their sometimes-shaky foundations. Relying on in-depth case studies from a wide array of issue areas, the Article shows that floodgates arguments primarily have been used to protect three institutions: coordinate branches of government, the state courts, and the federal courts themselves. In the former two instances, the Court’s desire to avoid floods is supported by independent constitutional principles and doctrine, including separation of powers and federalism, lending these kinds of arguments a prima facie legitimacy. With regard to the final instance, however, the Court has relied on floodgates arguments solely to protect itself and the rest of the federal judiciary from what it sees as an excessive workload, raising difficult questions about separation of powers and the measures courts can take to ensure their ability to administer justice. The Article concludes by arguing for a presumption against court-centered floodgates arguments—positing that the Court should let the lower courts rely on alternative mechanisms, such as procedural rules and case-management techniques, to handle new claims instead of closing the courthouse doors to stave them off altogether.
80 U Chi L Rev 1007 [Article PDF]
Article by Richard Primus
Constitutional theory features a persistent controversy over the source or sources of constitutional status, that is, over the criteria that qualify some rules as constitutional rules. This Article contends that no single criterion characterizes all of the rules that American law treats as constitutional, such that it is a mistake to think of constitutionality as a status with necessary conditions. It is better to think of constitutionality on a bundle-of-sticks model: different attributes associated with constitutionality might or might not be present in any constitutional rule. Analysts should often direct their attention more to the separate substantive properties that are associated with constitutionality than to the question of constitutional status itself.
80 U Chi L Rev 1079 [Article PDF]
Article by Lauren E. Willis
Inspired by the success of “automatic enrollment” in increasing participation in defined contribution retirement savings plans, policymakers have put similar policy defaults in place in a variety of other contexts, from checking account overdraft coverage to home-mortgage escrows. Internet privacy appears poised to be the next arena. But how broadly applicable are the results obtained in the retirement savings context? Evidence from other contexts indicates two problems with this approach: the defaults put in place by the law are not always sticky, and the people who opt out may be those who would benefit the most from the default. Examining the new default for consumer checking account overdraft coverage reveals that firms can systematically undermine each of the mechanisms that might otherwise operate to make defaults sticky. Comparing the retirement-savings default to the overdraft default, four boundary conditions on the use of defaults as a policy tool are apparent: policy defaults will not be sticky when (1) motivated firms oppose them, (2) these firms have access to the consumer, (3) consumers find the decision environment confusing, and (4) consumer preferences are uncertain. Due to constitutional and institutional constraints, government regulation of the libertarian-paternalism variety is unlikely to be capable of overcoming these bounds. Therefore, policy defaults intended to protect individuals when firms have the motivation and means to move consumers out of the default are unlikely to be effective unless accompanied by substantive regulation. Moreover, the same is likely to be true of “nudges” more generally, when motivated firms oppose them.
80 U Chi L Rev 1155 [Article PDF]