Blog Posts: Victor B. Flatt

Victor B. Flatt

"A Civil Action:" Torts, Environmental Law, and the Right to be Free from Externally Imposed Harms

A Civil Action book cover

In my last posting, I told you that when I read “A Civil Action” the first time, it really started me thinking about the relationship between torts and environmental law, and also the whole basis for torts and other common laws in general.

At the time that the action takes place in the book, the Environmental Protection Agency and many states were first starting to really apply hazardous waste laws (CERCLA and RCRA) to real-life situations. When you finish the book, you will learn that the EPA and Massachusetts later conducted a clean-up of the Woburn site. Both CERCLA and RCRA require the contributors of hazardous waste to a location to pay for cleaning up or remediating a site so that there is no longer risk of increased health consequences to humans or the environment. These laws, passed in 1976 and 1980, were based on the power of Congress to “regulate interstate commerce,” a very important power that you will learn more about in law school. Public health is an interstate commerce issue and the reach of the companies that dispose of wastes (and the wastes themselves) also cross state boundaries.

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3 Comments | Posted by Victor B. Flatt on Wed. July 24, 2013 10:00 AM
Categories: Book Club

"A Civil Action:" The Relationship of Torts to Environmental Law

I was very pleased to learn that the book for entering first years at Carolina Law was “A Civil Action.” Like Professor Birckhead and many others, I first read this book over a decade ago, and it is a pleasure to read it again. I have perhaps had more of an interest in this book than even the other professors in the conversation because my primary area of teaching and scholarship is in environmental law, which is designed, in part, to control the effects of pollution on human beings. As you get to the end of the book, you will hear more about the parallel process of clean-up under federal environmental laws that is a complement to the tort case brought by Schlichtmann.

I am also a Torts professor, and the case described in a Civil Action is a torts case. Reading the book for the first time made me reflect a good deal on the relationship of torts to environmental law, and in fact inspired a vein of scholarship which I will discuss in my next blog.

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1 Comment | Posted by Victor B. Flatt on Thu. July 18, 2013 3:57 PM
Categories: Book Club

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