Middle ground on liability for costs?

  • Joachim WündischEmail author


On the strict liability view, excusably ignorant agents must cover all the wrongful costs they have inadvertently brought onto others, although it is undisputed that they are not at fault. On the fault liability view, victims need not be compensated by excusably ignorant harmers. To some, both views appear harsh. Under fault liability, those who cause harm are seen as getting off scot-free while victims suffer. Under strict liability, agents are viewed as being burdened without any fault of their own. In response to a seemingly intractable conflict between competing theories, some have called for compromise. Caney (Crit Rev Int Soc Polit Philos 13(1):210, 2010) has proposed a “modified strict liability principle” which was further developed by Bell (Monist 94(3):391–411, 2011). The principle’s revision is promising because it gives substantive reason for why and how middle ground should be achieved. In this paper, I assess this proposal and the prospects for mediating between strict and fault liability more generally. Specifically, I (1) introduce concepts, (2) present Bell’s principle of limited liability, (3) critique it, and (4) explore general avenues for finding middle ground between strict and fault liability.


Liability for costs Fault liability Strict liability Excusable ignorance Responsibility Regret Fallibility 



I would like to thank Rüdiger Bittner, Frank Dietrich, Benjamin Huppert, Peter Vallentyne, Fabian Wendt, audiences in Berlin, Bielefeld, Bremen, Düsseldorf, and Manchester, as well as the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyHeinrich Heine University DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany
  2. 2.Center for Interdisciplinary ResearchBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany

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