Ellen Bublick, a University of Arizona law professor, was the only U.S. scholar to speak at a conference in China that marked a profoundly important juncture in the development of Chinese tort law.
The international symposium, which concluded last week in Chengdu, marked the inauguration of the new Tort Liability Law of the People’s Republic of China.
The conference brought together legal scholars from across China, including a judge of the Supreme People’s Court, China’s highest court, and Ken Oliphant, who directs the Institute for European Tort Law.
Bublick, the James E. Rogers College of Law's Dan B. Dobbs Professor of Law, is the author of the leading torts treatise in the U.S. and one of a few professors whose expertise in tort law is increasingly known on an international scale.
During the conference, Bublick offered an American legal perspective, presenting a paper on the wide-ranging liability law that took effect in China this week. Her paper, "Tort Law in Action: The Promise of Reasonable Care," discussed the U.S. tort law’s distinct focus on deterring harm.
Also, she addressed the importance of tort liability rules in fostering a culture of reasonable care for safety, also focusing on the importance of implementing tort rules in order to create accountability for wrongdoing.
Although China had previously enacted comprehensive legal rules governing contracts, the new law is significant because it is the first to create broad civil liability for injuries.
Bublick returned from her trip impressed with the Chinese scholars’ commitment to develop a legal infrastructure to address individual injuries.
"The issue of human physical injury is an issue that transcends national borders,” she said.
“In recent years, scholars across the globe have begun to discuss ways in which liability systems can effectively prevent and fairly respond to the problem of injury," she added. "These shared conversations help us understand more fully the many options available to each country.”
While in Chengdu, Bublick also delivered a two-hour lecture to more than 200 Chinese law students about U.S. tort law, and in particular, the Restatement of Torts. She recently edited a book for the American Law Institute about the Restatement of Torts, which creates a set of model legal rules that state courts and legislatures can follow.
The Restatement of Torts are created by the American Law Institute, a nearly 100 year old organization of distinguished judges, law professors and lawyers on which Bublick serves as an adviser.
As China creates its own tort law system, its students and scholars are keenly interested in legal rules from the U.S. and Europe. In fact, many aspects of China’s law are modeled on European and U.S. rules.
“From the thoughtful and difficult questions students asked, it is clear that the students in China are grappling with many of the same questions that we ask ourselves in the United States,” Bublick said.
Commenting on her experience there, Bublick said she looks forward to becoming a student of China’s young tort law.
“I have no doubt that in the long term we’ll learn as much from China’s successes and challenges as they have learned from ours," she said.