Vanderbilt Law Review

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The American Law Institute's ("ALI") involvement with the subject of products liability is developing as one of the most interesting sagas in the modern private law. This Article explores the ALI's efforts to rationalize the subject. Reviewing the ALI's contributions to the evolution of the law in this area, the Article also asks how the Institute should treat the subject in the future, an inquiry that leads us to the broader question of the role of Restatements of the Law in the twenty-first century. In press as Congress considers proposals for sweeping federalization of products liability law, the Article raises the question of how far a private organization should enmesh itself in a heavy politicized branch of law.

The idea of "restating" the law derives from several sources, all resting on the premise that one can, in fact, improve the law. Cardozo set up an ideal, in his characteristic rolling cadences, in a 1921 article proposing a "ministry of justice. The ALI first under- took Restatements in 1923, attacking simultaneously the subjects of contracts, torts, and conflict of laws. After the completion of the first round of Restatements, William Draper Lewis, director of the Institute, summarized the premise of those projects as "the belief that out of the mass of case authority and legal literature could be made clear statements of the rules of the common law today operative in the great majority of our States, expressed as simply as the character of our complex civilization admits."

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