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Second-Best JusticeThe Virtues of Japanese Private Law$
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J. Mark Ramseyer

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226281995

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226282046.001.0001

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A System with Few Claims

A System with Few Claims

Products Liability

(p.35) Chapter Three A System with Few Claims
Second-Best Justice

J. Mark Ramseyer

University of Chicago Press

Americans file 30,000 product liability suits a year; Japanese file perhaps 100-300. The difference does not lie in legal doctrine: on the substantive law of products liability, the US and Japan are quite close. Neither does the reason lie in any “faults” or “defects” in the Japanese legal system. Instead, Japanese file few products liability claims because they buy mostly safe products. Americans do too, of course, but US procedure encourage meritless demands. Litigation rates are not lower in Japan because the law prevents victims from recovering their damages; Japanese law does not deter valid claims. Instead, rates are higher in the US because the law facilitates efforts by claimants to collect amounts to which they are not legally entitled—because the legal system lets non-victims manipulate the courts to extort payoffs from defendants who did little if anything wrong. Fundamentally, this contrast stems from the same phenomenon identified in Chapter 2: the American system aspires to particularized recovery, and the openness it offers to individualized claims also allows fraud. Japanese courts aim for just “good enough.” That much they provide, and the very simplicity also enables them to block the fraud that plagues the American system

Keywords:   product liability, fraud, litigation, insurance

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