Detecting Good Public Policy Rationales for the American Rule: A Response to the Ill-Conceived Calls for “Loser Pays” Rules

by Peter Karsten & Oliver Bateman

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Abstract

Several critiques have been leveled at the American Rule—that is, the rule that each party to a lawsuit should pay for its attorneys. Some claim that there were no principled justifications offered by the nineteenth-century jurists who authored the opinions marking the rule’s origins. Instead, these jurists only cited their states’ “taxable costs” statutes. Others claim that the American Rule—as well as its close relative, the contingency-fee contract—contributed to a “liability explosion” in that century. This Article offers a comprehensive examination of the origins of, rationales given for, and impact of the American Rule; then it evaluates instances in which the rule has faced legislative, judicial, and academic opposition.

Detecting Good Public Policy Rationales for the American Rule: A Response to the Ill-Conceived Calls for “Loser Pays” Rules

by Peter Karsten & Oliver Bateman

Click here for a PDF file of this article

Abstract

Several critiques have been leveled at the American Rule—that is, the rule that each party to a lawsuit should pay for its attorneys. Some claim that there were no principled justifications offered by the nineteenth-century jurists who authored the opinions marking the rule’s origins. Instead, these jurists only cited their states’ “taxable costs” statutes. Others claim that the American Rule—as well as its close relative, the contingency-fee contract—contributed to a “liability explosion” in that century. This Article offers a comprehensive examination of the origins of, rationales given for, and impact of the American Rule; then it evaluates instances in which the rule has faced legislative, judicial, and academic opposition.