Liability Law Has Little to Do With How People Really Act
As a practicing attorney (although not a tort lawyer), I was enjoying Paul H. Rubin’s “A Gulf Spill Tort Primer” (op-ed, Aug. 2) on oil spill liability in the Gulf until I slammed into his sentence: “For example, if drivers were strictly liable for car accidents, then pedestrians might be less careful.”
This has to rate as perhaps the finest example of ivory tower detachment from the real world. Prof. Rubin posits that a pedestrian, faced with a potential clash between mere flesh and bone and a multi-thousand-pound steel vehicle powered by over 200 horses, will be more or less careful in stepping off the curb based on the liability standard applicable to the driver of the vehicle. In other words, as I walk the streets I change my behavior based on how much my heirs might be able to collect in a posthumous legal action.
I think not, professor, and the careful use of the word “might” does not save the academic recluse. First, it is still wrong on its face. Second, this kind of lawyerly attempt at creating “wiggle room” is exactly what drives the lay population crazy.
Neal B. Glick