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Rutgers Law Journal


tort reform, Ohio law


Tort reform emanates, for our purposes, from two primary bodies: state judicial and legislative branches. The vast panoply of congressional and regulatory federal action that bears on the protections afforded and rights to recover for persons within their ambit is a subject for another day. Similarly, the rare areas in which the Supreme Court of the United States establishes federal common law are subjects for another day. On a national scale, the impetus for state legislative reform action can be found in a series of landmark decisions that were soon adopted, in largely similar form, by almost all state supreme courts. The first such case, described as evidencing the “fall of the citadel,” was the seminal decision in Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors, Inc. This decision is notable for both its attack upon and abrogation of privity doctrine and for its broad-based policy aspects. Shortly thereafter, the adoption of strict liability in tort by the California Supreme Court in Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc., began to destroy whatever of the citadel was yet in place while strengthening the policy base for further enlarging tort liability. This expansion was realized through recognition of the crashworthiness doctrine by the Eighth Circuit under its Erie powers in Larsen v. General Motors Corp. With these decisions a revolution in judicial-based tort reform rapidly overwhelmed the nation. This revolution, focused on products liability, initiated debate and change. My presentation will emphasize the legislative response to this revolution primarily in the area of law that generated the battleground: products liability.