for the Public's Health
The levers of public health regulation are often viewed as being in the hands of legislatures and executive agencies. However, attorneys general and private citizens possess a powerful means of indirect regulation through the tort system. Tort litigation can be an effective method for reducing the burden of injury and disease. The courts help redress harms caused by pollution, toxic substances, unsafe pharmaceuticals or vaccines, and defective or hazardous consumer products. Figure 13 provides an image of tort law serving as a tool for reducing a variety of harms to the population's health.
The goals of tort law, although imperfectly achieved, are frequently consistent with public health objectives. The tort system aims to hold individuals and businesses accountable for their dangerous activities, compensate persons who are harmed, deter unreasonably hazardous conduct, and encourage innovation in product design, labeling, and advertising to reduce the risk of injury or disease. Civil litigation, therefore, can provide potent incentives for people and manufacturers to engage in safer, more socially conscious behavior. (For an insightful discussion of the functions of tort litigation, see Jacobson and Warner .)
Tort law can be an effective method of advancing the public's health, but, like any form of regulation, it is not an unmitigated good. The tort system imposes economic costs and personal burdens on individuals and businesses, including transaction expenses (e.g., the court system