Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The expansion of tort liability throughout the last century was a unique period of American legal history. In the field of products liability the expansion was dramatic; so much that it can be considered revolutionary. Also, the reaction to this expansion was so forceful that it thwarted the larger goals of the expansionary movement. This paper will review the purposes of the expansion of tort law in the twentieth century and the purposes and effects of the reaction it spurred at the state level. In short, it is my conclusion that the expansion of products liability after World War II--the “Tort Revolution”--was primarily judicially driven and resulted in longlasting liability changes, but that the goals of the larger liability expansion movement were thwarted and the trends toward expanded liability were greatly curbed by actions at the state and federal levels. 1 The Tort Revolution caused friction between courts and legislatures, and resulted in tort policy-making, which had traditionally been left to state courts, being injected into the pluralist realm of majoritarian politics. Part I of this article will examine the extant scholarly literature on the origins of the Tort Revolution, covering the period from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s, and provide an argument for the factors that made the Tort Revolution. Part II will examine some of the state-level legislative responses to the expansion of tort liability. This paper will not examine in detail the initial federal efforts to respond to the Tort Revolution, as I will address such federal efforts in a future essay.

Published Citation

Drake, Ian J. "Tort Reform and American Political Economy." Ohio Academy of History, 2011