Boston University School of Law


Causation in Tort Law: A Reconsideration

Keith N. Hylton
Boston University School of Law

Forthcoming in Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts (Jennifer Arlen, ed., Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013)
Boston University School of Law Public Law & Legal Theory Paper No. 13-30 (July 23, 2013)
Boston University School of Law Law & Economics Paper No. 13-30 (July 23, 2013)


Causation is a source of confusion in tort theory, as well as a flash point between consequentialist and deontological legal theorists. Consequentialists argue that causation is generally determined by the policy grounds for negligence, not by a technical analysis of the facts. Conversely, deontologists reject the view that policy motives determine causation findings. Causation has also generated different approaches within the consequentialist school. In this chapter I try to bring some order to the arguments on causation by isolating key elements of the cases and introducing a “causation tree” that highlights the role of information. A better model of causation may help to resolve the arguments between different schools of tort theory, and to reconcile conflicting models within the consequentialist school.

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Contact Information

Keith N. Hylton
William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, Boston University
Professor of Law

Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215