Lecture 3: “Causes and Consequences in the Common Law”

Event date
2 May 2018
Event time
17:30 - 18:30
Oxford week
The Gulbenkian
Jane Stapleton




Professor Jane Stapleton DCL - Master of Christ’s College Cambridge, an Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College and an Emeritus Distinguished Professor of the Australian National University (ANU).

Series Abstract:

Periodically academia is swept with enthusiasm for a grand theory which describes tort law as being fundamentally “all about one thing”, like carrot purée. This series of lectures explores a different type of scholarship, one that places at centre stage what judges do and say, and how they understand their role. Such scholarship is capable of both smoothly absorbing legal change signalled by courts and influencing courts with its insights, so it is convenient to describe it as “reflexive tort scholarship”.

Lecture 1 looks generally at this technique while the following lectures present detailed examples of where it can lead. It is because of its tight focus on judicial reasoning that reflexive tort scholarship is so well placed to assist judges, and indeed to collaborate with them in the process of the common law’s development. The theme of this series of lectures is that this is at least as thrilling a prospect for a young legal scholar as any offered by grand tort theories.

Lecture 3: “Causes and Consequences in the Common Law”

A set of pivotal analytical questions in law which Bench, Bar and Academia have found especially challenging concern: the legal concept of causation; orthodox and unorthodox approaches to proof of causation; and the appropriate limits of legal responsibility for the consequences of conduct falling foul of a legal rule.  The complex substance of these central concepts of the common law has been addressed in most detail and most transparently in tort cases.

Lecture 3 demonstrates the power of reflexive tort scholarship, with its focus on taking what judges say and decide seriously, to bring clarity and rigour to our understanding of these key issues. This is of great benefit not only in tort law but also in the common law more generally and in the interpretation of statutory provisions that utilise common law concepts.

About Jane

Jane Stapleton DCL is Master of Christ’s College Cambridge, an Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College and an Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University (ANU). Originally trained as a scientist, she resigned a postdoctoral post in Cambridge to retrain as a lawyer, first at the ANU then at Oxford where she taught for many years. She subsequently held posts at the University of Texas and the ANU.

Professor Stapleton is a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, an Honorary Bencher of Gray's Inn, a Council Member of the American Law Institute, an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College Cambridge and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law. She is a recipient of: the Association of American Law Schools’ Prosser Award which honours those "who have made an outstanding contribution to the world of tort law scholarship”; and the American Bar Association’s Robert B. McKay Law Professor Award which honours “attorneys who have shown commitment to the advancement of justice, scholarship and the legal profession, demonstrated by outstanding contributions to the fields of tort and insurance law”.

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