Document Type

Article

Publication Title

U.C.L.A. Law Review

Publication Date

1986

Abstract

The principle of individual responsibility is one of the foundations of tort law, and indeed of the common law in general. Recently, however, court decisions and scholarly commentary, particularly on the issue of actual causation of injury, indicate a shift away from the principle of individual responsibility in torts toward what can be termed group, or community, responsibility. While the dimensions of this shift are as yet limited, its implications are immense: it calls into question fundamental premises regarding the nature of the individual and the individual's relationship to society. This Article addresses the emerging shift in tort law from individual to group responsibility, and its legal, political, and philosophical implications. After tracing the shift and describing the generally confused and hostile responses that it has evoked, I demonstrate that the shift is justified by, and intuitively expresses, a revision of the political theory of the individual and society that underlies present conceptions of legal responsibility. I conclude that the shift to group responsibility is a positive development, but one that must be understood and applied much more critically than courts or commentators have done thus far.

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