Human Torts is the first article to describe how ordinary municipal tort lawsuits in the United States provide essential remedies for human rights abuses. Despite the rising level of hate crimes, bullying, corporate malfeasance, and other private acts that result in great harm and can lead to civil litigation, American scholars have never explored how everyday tort claims grounded in purely domestic common law doctrine between private, non-state actors are in fact human rights claims even if never pleaded as such in US courts. Framing tort litigation as a form of human rights protection may appear to be a novel aspirational proposal, but comparative law reveals that most countries in the world follow this horizontal approach. Strikingly, a close look at the genealogy of tort law indicates that the United States also once did the same. Only in the last half century has the focus on rights been eclipsed due to the imposition of an instrumental, economic account of tort law that seeks to balance the costs of human interactions at the risk of commodifying the value of life. In response, this Article proposes practical ways to reintegrate the rights perspective into tort law. In doing so, it presents a ‘progressive’ view of torts in a world in which private actors wield great power yet are not held sufficiently accountable for the harms they cause to innocent individuals and communities.
Laplante, Lisa J, Human Torts (October 1, 2017). Cardozo Law Review, volume 39, no 1, 2017; New England Law | Boston Research Paper No 17-10.