Briefing Room


The Measure of Injury: Race, Gender and Tort Law

April 5, 2011 | Faculty

In The Measure of Injury: Race, Gender, and Tort Law, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Professor Martha Chamallas and Jennifer Wriggins, a University of Maine School of Law professor, put tort law under a critical magnifying glass and reveal with extraordinary clarity the pervasive effects of race and gender in the law of torts, effects often not visible upon a cursory glance because of the facial neutrality of many contemporary legal rules. The book, published by New York University Press in 2010, gives the reader a full and compelling picture that indelibly alters the traditional understanding of torts.

Chamallas and her co-author, drawing on an in-depth analysis of case law ranging from the Jim Crow South to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, demonstrate that women and minorities have been under-compensated in tort law and that traditional biases have resurfaced in updated forms to perpetuate patterns of disparate recovery based on race and gender. Grappling with tort theory, the intricacies of legal doctrine and the practical effects of legal rules, The Measure of Injury is a unique treatise on torts that uncovers the public and cultural dimensions of this always-controversial domain of private law.

Tort law “is built around the dual premises that accidental injury lies at the core of tort law and that physical injury, rather than emotional harm or injuries to relationships, is of paramount concern.” The coauthors demonstrate how this paradigm has disabled tort law from stemming domestic violence and sexual exploitation; they also expose the approach’s normative underpinnings to demonstrate that the result is more than an unfortunate coincidence.

Chamallas, the Robert J. Lynn Chair in Law at Moritz, teaches Torts, Employment Discrimination, and Gender and the Law. Prior to joining Moritz College of Law in 2002, Chamallas served on the faculties of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, the Louisiana State University Law Center, and the University of Iowa College of Law.