ILR President Rickard: Public Nuisance Lawsuits "Could Devour All of Tort"

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June 21, 2019

In a new op-ed in RealClearMarkets, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa A. Rickard said the rise of public nuisance lawsuits may create a “monster that could devour all of tort.”

She pointed directly to the ongoing trial in Oklahoma, in which the state is using the public nuisance theory in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis. Nuisance law, Rickard says, is based off law from medieval England and has “long been limited to claims over unreasonable interference with a public right” like roads or waterways. Applying it to claims over products would “allow for lawsuits over virtually any harm caused by any product in anyone’s hands.”

Rickard cited an opinion from the Eighth Circuit, which said an expansion of nuisance law would unleash “a monster that would devour in one gulp the entire law of tort.”