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Article

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The Morality of Strict Liability, 18 William & Mary Law Review 259 (1976)

Abstract

Accidents occur; personal property is damaged and sometimes is lost altogether. Accident victims are likely to suffer anything from mere bruises and headaches to temporary or permanent disability to death. The personal and social costs of accidents are staggering. Yet the question of who should bear these costs has turned the heads of few philosophers and has occasioned surprisingly little philosophic discussion. Perhaps that is because the answer has seemed so obvious; accident costs, at least the nontrivial ones, ought to be borne by those at fault in causing them. The requirement of fault at one time appeared to be so deeply rooted in the concept of personal responsibility that in the famous Ives case, Judge Werner was moved to argue that liability without fault was not only immoral, but also an unconstitutional violation of due process of law. Although Judge Werner's arguments long since have lost whatever appeal they might have had within the legal community, the view persists among philosophers that strict liability is an unjust or immoral standard of responsibility in torts. This Article will identify what that immorality is not and what it might be.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1976

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