This paper was originally presented to the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, Colorado, in January 1986, and in an earlier version to the Public Policy Institute in Albany, New York, in November 1985. It draws on studies of civil court congestion and delay, alternative dispute resolution, the public costs of civil litigation, asbestos-related litigation, punitive damages, and medical malpractice. The author explores the relevance of policy research to tort reform, and concludes that the underlying problem with the civil justice system is the inability to decide whether we in the United States want to have a pure compensatory system, in which everyone is compensated for every injury no matter what its cause, or a fault-based liability system, in which compensation is limited in a strict way, in a comparative way, or in a contributory way to those who have caused the injury.
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