Abolishing Personal Injuries Law? A reply to Lord Sumption

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Morgan, JE 

Lord Sumption has frequently delivered speeches that provoke public debate. His 2017 lecture to the Personal Injuries Bar Association will surely do so too. Its very title, a ‘ Project ’ of ‘ Abolishing Personal Injuries Law ’ , is incendiary. The provocation is welcome, and indeed overdue. As Lord Sumption observes, the high-water mark of reform came with New Zealand ’ s Accident Compensation Act in 1972. Although radical change was contemporaneously discussed, no other Commonwealth jurisdiction abolished negligence in favour of an accident insurance scheme. 1 The Pearson Royal Commission (1978) failed even to consider such a universal scheme. 2 Tort reformers such as PS Atiyah did not disguise their disappointment. 3 Professor Atiyah (and his editor, Peter Cane) have continued to urge reform through successive editions of Accidents, Compensation and the Law . 4 But the last new initiative from that quarter was Atiyah ’ s The Damages Lottery (1997). Since then, nothing has changed and the debate has virtually disappeared from view (in England at least). Lord Sumption has done tort lawyers, and law reform, a service by lending his authority to its revival.

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Professional Negligence
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