Tort Reform, Innovation, and Playground Design

42 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2005

See all articles by Benjamin H. Barton

Benjamin H. Barton

University of Tennessee College of Law


This essay directly confronts a key claim underlying calls for tort reform: that current product liability law negatively impacts innovation. It begins by outlining the current state of the product liability/innovation debate, and details the arguments and empirical evidence for and against a negative correlation. The essay then argues that when confronted by potential product liability entrepreneurial companies do not simply patch failed products, they fully rethink and redesign them. As such, product liability can actually spur innovation. The essay also indulges in a discussion of the economist Joseph Schumpeter's entrepreneurial mindset and a Calabresian argument that manufacturers are probably in the best position to innovate and "make lemonade" out of the lemons of design defects. The essay then applies these theories to playground design and argues that product liability law and heightened safety concerns have actually resulted in a quality revolution in public playgrounds. We have eliminated the stark and joyless concrete and steel "traditional" playground in favor of new playgrounds that are not only safer, but vastly superior on every count: more fun, more interactive, and more gauged towards play.

Keywords: tort reform, innovation, playground design, law and economics

JEL Classification: K10, K13, O30, O31, O33, O38

Suggested Citation

Barton, Benjamin H., Tort Reform, Innovation, and Playground Design. Florida Law Review, Vol. 57, April 2006, Available at SSRN:

Benjamin H. Barton (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States

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