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Law and Economic Development

Event details of January 30, 2006: Hans-Bernd Schaefer (Universität Hamburg)
Date 30 January 2006
Time 11:45 -13:15


Before the industrial revolution the law of torts and the regulation of safety did not play an important role. Shying horses were a mayor source of injuries. The Code Civil, enacted in 1804, before the industrial revolution in France, devoted only two sections to the law of torts. Injuries and accidents were largely a by-product of industrialization and tort law developed with the rise of industry and mechanized traffic.
However, in the modern world the most dangerous places are not the highly industrialized but the poor countries. The number of road fatalities per 10.000 motor vehicles is around 2 in Western Europe and Northern America. It is around 17 in Asian countries and as high as 26 in Latin American countries. The total number of road fatalities worldwide was estimated at 543 thousands in 1999, of which 99 thousand occurred in highly motorized western countries and all others in developing and transition countries. These figures give only the tip of the iceberg. How can the legal system cope with these problems? What role can tort law play in poor countries with a large proportion of people living in absolute poverty, unable to pay damage compensation? Should poor countries allocate the same amount of resources to avoid labor accidents or accidents with bodily harm as rich countries? Should accident victims in poor countries have access to courts in rich countries if the tortfeasor is a multinational firm?


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