Instrumental Comparative Tort Law

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This article examines the possible uses of comparative tort law in practice and theory. It takes the view that comparative law is always a means, never an end in itself, explains how it can be utilized by judges, legislatures, and legal scholars, and puts forward important caveats and qualifications. Part 2 demonstrates the traditional role of comparative law in interpreting and implementing shared or similar tort doctrines and in providing ideas for domestic tort law gap-filling and reform. It highlights the challenges that such utilization might present. Part 3 maintains that comparative research is the cornerstone of unification endeavors. Starting with coordinated projects, Part 3 argues that unification is in itself an instrument (making comparative law a second-order instrument) and that it cannot be pursued without taking into account some concerns about its desirability and practicability. Part 3 then discusses uncoordinated unification processes, whereby lawmakers in one jurisdiction identify a “global consensus” and decide to join it, and elaborates on the normative and positive components of these strategies. Part 4 acknowledges that comparative analysis usually uncovers trans-jurisdictional diversity and argues that such findings can underlie normative and positive theories of tort law. A comparison can offer a systematic taxonomy of possible legal solutions to a particular problem, enabling scholars to critically evaluate and compare the alternatives from their preferred theoretical perspective. Moreover, any hypothesis about the impact of cultural, economic, political, technological, and other conditions and changes on the law can be substantiated or refuted through comparative analyses that seek out legal differences (or similarities) among systems with different (or similar) underlying backgrounds. Through this analysis, the article aims to reignite and enrich the debate and inspire tort-law makers and scholars to integrate comparative research into their work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-529
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Tort Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 De Gruyter. All rights reserved.


  • comparative law
  • interpretation
  • tort law
  • tort theory
  • unification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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