Torts: A Big Stick for Consumers

"Out of fact comes law," said the Romans. And out of 50,000 U.S. auto deaths a year are coming new legal pressures on U.S. auto manufacturers.

Most important is "strict liability" — a doctrine holding a manufacturer liable for consumer injuries even though he has not been proved guilty of manufacturing negligence.

A major impetus for this Draconian doctrine traces back to 1911 when an upstate New York gravestone dealer named Donald MacPherson was driving his new Buick at 15 m.p.h. A wheel flew off, the car flipped, and MacPherson wound up in...

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