Robert Stevens, the Herbert Smith Freehills Professor of English Private Law at University of Oxford, delivered the year’s second Tort Law Research Group public lecture on March 19, 2014. Speaking to an audience of students and faculty members, Professor Stevens carefully and vividly explained the difference between causation and contribution and the role that each play in the law’s assessing of responsibility.
In his presentation Professor Stevens worked through many different factual situations from the fields of criminal law, contracts, and tort. Memorable examples involved simultaneous shootings, election results, desert hikers, melting ice, contracts for supply of bricks and mortar, and river pollution. Each example was used to explain distinctions between core concepts like necessity, sufficiency, causation, contribution, and responsibility. His central contention was that the law sometimes bases responsibility on causation and sometimes bases it on contribution, and that recognition of this separation is preferable to explaining the law solely in terms of causation.
Professor Stevens was previously a Professor at University College London. He is the author of Torts and Rights (2007), a very influential book about how to think about tort law, moving the focus away from compensation for loss to giving effect to rights. He is a prolific scholar across all areas of private law and has been invited to give keynote lectures at major private law conferences all over the world including the upcoming Obligations conference in Hong Kong in July 2014. He was at Western Law not only for the lecture but also to teach a week-long intensive course in unjust enrichment and restitution.
The Tort Law Research Group’s public lecture series is generously sponsored by Legate and Associates LLP. Founding lawyer Barbara Legate, a graduate of Western Law, leads a firm that uses a client-centred team approach focused on getting to know each client and assuring that he or she feels empowered. She was recently named 2014 Lawyer of the Year in Personal Injury Litigation. Ms. Legate publically thanked Professor Stevens for his lecture.