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Judge and Jury: American Tort Law on Trial

When a woman successfully sued McDonalds after spilling hot coffee on herself, many Americans concluded that the nation was at the mercy of a "litigation explosion." But how much of the proliferation of frivolous lawsuits has to do with frivolous individuals and how much is institutionalized in our system of civil justice?

In the first of the Athenaeum Economics and the Law series, Professor Eric Helland will analyze the tort system — the body of law that prevents and punishes accidents. He will discuss three of the key players — juries, judges, and lawyers — and examine the social costs of class action lawsuits, medical malpractice insurance, workers' compensation, and punitive damages. Professor Helland will also compare the possibilities for reforming the tort system through award caps, federalization, or outright abandonment.

Eric Helland has taught in the economics department at CMC since 1998. He is also a senior economist at the RAND Corporation's Institute for Civil Justice. In 2003, he was a senior economist at the President's Council of Economic Advisers following a year as the John M. Olin Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Washington University.