SLAVERY AND TORT LAW |
Keith N. Hylton
Boston University School of Law Working Paper 03-02
This paper evaluates the claim for slavery reparations from a torts perspective.
I start with an examination of the injuries inflicted on slaves, and the
extent to which tort law provides a vehicle for redressing these injuries.
I then take up the question of "derivative claims," claims brought
by someone other than the direct victim, a category which covers the reparations
complaint. Lastly, I discuss the accounting demand by the reparations
plaintiffs. The derivative status of reparations claims presents special
obstacles for plaintiffs. However, applying today's law to slavery should
be viewed as bringing law to a regime from which it had been entirely
displaced, not as a retroactive application of a different set of rules.
The more troubling problem for plaintiffs is the passage of time. After
enough time has passed, tort doctrine shuts the door on claims based on
old and distant injuries. It appears that the only component of reparations
lawsuits that has the potential for social gain is the demand for an accounting.
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Keith N. Hylton Contact Information
Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215
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Presentation and Publication Information:
Forthcoming, Volume 84, Boston University Law Review (Symposium
on Jurisprudence of Reparations), December, 2004..
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