Tort Law – Theory versus Practice

The Journal of Tort Law was founded, in 2006, by Jules Coleman as a scholarly forum for exchange of heterodox views of tort law.  Under its current Editor In Chief, Christopher Robinette, the journal has continued its exploration of tort theory and philosophy of law. Practitioners can sharpen their practice considerably by understanding the deep structure, theory, and philosophy of tort law, but it seems equally clear that theorists can and must pay attention to what actually happens in tort litigation. Professor Robinette should thus be commended for featuring a symposium in the pages of the journal on “What Practitioners Can Teach Academics about Tort Litigation.”

A passage from Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason (1781) is often paraphrased as “theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind.”  Yogi Berra gets credit for the deeper insight that “in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is.” Professor Robinette has empowered Yogi’s world view by turning over the pages of the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Tort Law to practitioners, who offer their views on what is actually going on in tort law.

Earlier this week, the various symposium contributions to “What Practitioners Can Teach Academics about Tort Litigation” appeared online as “in press” articles at the Journal of Tort Law. The contributors come from various subdisciplines of tort law, and from differing perspectives of lawyers for pursuers and defenders. This issue will be, I believe, perfect pandemic reading. Here are the symposium articles:

Nathan A. Schachtman, “Products Liability Law – Lessons from the Military and Industrial Contexts

Malcolm E. Wheeler & Theresa Wardon Benz, “Litigation Financing: Balancing Access with Fairness,”

Paul Figley, “Defending Government Tort Litigation: Considerations for Scholars,”

Victor E. Schwartz, “Expert Testimony Needs Judges to Act as “Gatekeepers”: The Maryland Court of Appeals Teaches Why

Thomas E. Albro & Thomas M. Hendell, “What Practitioners can Teach Academics about Tort Litigation – The Plaintiff’s Perspective in Medical Malpractice Litigation”

Scott B. Cooper, “What Practitioners can Teach Academics about Tort Litigation: Auto Accidents from the Plaintiff’s Counsel

Daniel E. Cummins, “Fighting the Good Fight: The Insurance Defense Litigator

Sara M. Peters, “Shifting the Burden of Proof on Causation: The One Who Creates Uncertainty Should Bear Its Burden

As for my contribution, I can say it is a better and more succinct article for my having received suggestions from the editor, Professor Robinette. One of the casualties of page limitations, however, was my failure to acknowledge other lawyers who commented on early drafts, or who pointed me to pertinent briefs. Thank you John Garde, Kirk Hartley, Timothy Kapshandy, Michael Pichini, Robert Pisani, David Speziali, and John Ulizio, for reading drafts, listening to rants, or providing briefs. My article is better for your help, but like Donald Trump, you bear no responsibilities for any errors.

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