Friday, March 10, 2006

The Cultural Foundations of Tort Law

The University of Denver Sturm College of Law is hosting a conference next month on The Cultural Foundations of Tort Law.

This unique conference will assemble a group of preeminent legal scholars and social scientists to examine the cultural roots of tort law’s central concepts, including causation, person, injury, and compensation. Focusing on contemporary and historical American practices, and comparing such practices to those in Europe, Asia, and the United Kingdom, the conference will offer pioneering insights into the ways in which tort law institutions are shaped or contested by cultural understandings of risk and responsibility, by gender and race relations, and by communitarian and individualistic values.
Valerie Hans (earlier post) will present "Juries as Conduits for Culture?" a paper examining the
assertion that the American civil jury is a key factor in incorporating social, economic, and cultural elements into the tort system. A number of questions will be addressed. How do core concepts of tort law --judgments of injury, liability, the reasonable person standard, and the appropriateness of compensation -- depend on the jury's infusion of social norms and cultural understandings into its decision making? What are the psychological and social processes by and through which culture affects jury decisions, if it does? Are jury decisions more influenced by cultural norms than judicial decisions? What happens when legal rules governing tort liability are at odds with popular understandings and conventions? The paper will draw on existing research that pertains to some of these questions, and will suggest empirical strategies for answering others.
The conference is April 7-8. One of the co-organizers is Michael McCann, an adjunct professor in the UW School of Law (primary appointment: political science).

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