From: Robert Stevens <robert.stevens@law.ox.ac.uk>
To: Donal Nolan <donal.nolan@law.ox.ac.uk>
Volokh, Eugene <VOLOKH@law.ucla.edu>
obligations@uwo.ca
Date: 08/07/2022 10:56:07 UTC
Subject: RE: Kinsey identifying dissident for Saudi government isn't negligent

I am not sure whether the language of “causation” captures what we’re trying to say, not least because the term is slippery. Some use it to mean “responsibility”. Still others expand it to cover mere “contribution.”

 

In all of these cases, but for the defendant’s action the result would not have occurred. In all of them, the defendant had responsibility, in some sense, for what occurred.

 

The language of wrongs and injury seems to me to capture the idea more clearly.

 

If you’re shot by a five your old child with a gun, what was the wrong you suffered? You were shot. But the five year old wasn’t the one responsible for that, the person who gave him the gun was. It was their doing.

 

From: Donal Nolan <donal.nolan@law.ox.ac.uk>
Sent: 08 July 2022 11:26
To: Robert Stevens <robert.stevens@law.ox.ac.uk>; Volokh, Eugene <VOLOKH@law.ucla.edu>; obligations@uwo.ca
Subject: RE: Kinsey identifying dissident for Saudi government isn't negligent

 

The language of ‘injury’ here seems obscure to me, but if we focus not on the action but on the end result that grounds the claim (ie the damage, physical ‘injury’, etc) then I think this boils down to a causation argument (the defendant did not commit a wrong because in some sense the defendant didn’t cause the damage). I agree with that. And I think it explains why the defendant is a wrongdoer if they give the gun to a young child, who is not responsible for their actions. But it does need to be explained, even if it is difficult.

 

All best

 

Donal

 

 

From: Robert Stevens <robert.stevens@law.ox.ac.uk>
Sent: 08 July 2022 11:09
To: Donal Nolan <donal.nolan@law.ox.ac.uk>; Volokh, Eugene <VOLOKH@law.ucla.edu>; obligations@uwo.ca
Subject: RE: Kinsey identifying dissident for Saudi government isn't negligent

 

 

“Presumably those Rob puts in the Donoghue/MacPherson camp think that there are two wrongs in some cases of this kind even though there was no assumption of responsibility, and it is not self-evident (to me anyway) why that is not the case.”

 

If we think (as some do) that the wrong/tort is constituted by exposing others to the risk of injury, then the social host, the gun seller and McKinsey all committed a wrong. As did the driver, shooter and Saudi government.

 

If we think the wrong/tort is constituted by the injury (being run over, being shot etc) that gives us a different answer, as the social host, gun seller and McKinsey didn’t do those things. Rather, they did something that caused someone else to do those things.

 

On either view, there may be another kind of wrong constituted by the breach of an assumed duty to take care.

 

Whether torts are wrongs at all (many academics at least purport to think that torts can’t be defined or are liability formulas or something else) and what those wrongs are constituted by are Big Difficult Questions.