Working Paper Series

Torts and the Protection of “Legally Recognized Interests


  • Michael W. Hanemann, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley
  • Sandra A. Hoffmann, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C.


  • Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (April 2005)


In this paper we examine how one might systematically model the incidences of property created and enforced by tort law and analyze their effect on economic behavior. We then show how such a model can help provide deeper insights into the law and economics analysis of tort, using as an example the search for a unified approach to assessing compensation for nonpecuniary and pecuniary loss. The paper is organized as follows. In Section 1, we present a legal analysis of the entitlement conferred by tort law. This is then formalized in Section 2 in an economic model of the incidences of ownership defined and enforced by tort law. In Section 3 we show how this perspective on tort law can add to our understanding of the design and function of torts by re-examining the literature on insurance and tort compensation for nonpecuniary loss. We conclude in Section 4 with a summary of how tort law functions to create and protect rights in the bundle of rights that makes up property.

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