Tort Reform and Innovation

by Alberto Galasso and Hong Luo

Overview — This paper investigates how tort reforms might affect the development of new medical device technologies. The authors find that caps on non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) are associated with an average decline in patenting for medical instrument technologies. The effect, however, is highly varied and depends on the characteristics of both the devices and the medical fields.

Author Abstract

Current academic and policy debates focus on the impact of tort reforms on physicians’ behavior and medical costs. This paper examines whether these reforms also affect incentives to develop new technologies. We find that, on average, laws that limit the liability exposure of healthcare providers are associated with a significant reduction in medical device patenting. Tort reforms have the strongest impact in medical fields in which the probability of facing a malpractice claim is the largest, and they do not seem to affect the propensity to develop technologies of the highest and lowest quality. Our results underscore the importance of considering dynamic effects in the economic analysis of tort laws.

Paper Information