Since 1923, the American Law Institute has exercised more influence on judge-made common law than any other private institution. The ALI’s most influential work has come in the form of periodic publications known as Restatements of the Law. These descriptions of existing law are relied on and trusted by judges, lawyers, legal scholars, and law students for thoughtfully objective analysis. In 2009, ALI published the first volume of “Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm.” For the first time in the institute’s history, its restatement went beyond reviewing existing law and recommended fundamental change: an unprecedented expansion of landowners’ duty of care to all visitors, including unwanted trespassers. This restatement was lauded by the trial bar and sent shockwaves through corporate legal circles. Although ALI has as much right as other interest groups to advocate for changes in the law, is it still entitled to special deference from judges? Justice Antonin Scalia raised concerns in a 2015 opinion. The authors of ALI restatements, he observed, have “over time . . . abandoned the mission of describing the law, and have chosen instead to set forth their aspirations for what the law ought to be.” Victor Schwartz, Partner at Shook Hardy & Bacon, joined us for a discussion on the American Law Institute's evolving position on civil liability reform.
- Victor E. Schwartz, Partner, Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP