Public Policy in the Private Law of Torts

Professor John Oberdiek, Distinguished Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School

Time and date: Wednesday 22 March, 2023, 1-2pm (Brisbane Time)

Location: Law School Board Room (W353), Level 3, Forgan Smith Building, The University of Queensland, St Lucia
and via Zoom:


According to leading non-consequentialist, relational accounts of private law, and of tort law in particular, a plaintiff’s claim against the defendant is to be resolved by exclusive reference to facts about those parties’ interaction. What matters is whether the defendant wronged the plaintiff, full stop, not the direction that so-called public policy considerations militate, or whether it would be socially expedient to decide an issue or indeed the whole case one way or another. Still, it is difficult to resist the relevance of broader matters of public policy in resolving tort cases, and indeed to tort law as a whole. In this discussion, I seek to distinguish between principled and unprincipled appeals to public policy, and make the case that even in resolutely non-consequentialist, relational accounts of tort law, public policy considerations can play a principled, if limited role.

About the Speaker

Profile photo of Professor John OberdiekJohn Oberdiek writes in tort theory and law and philosophy more broadly and is the author of Imposing Risk: A Normative Framework (Oxford 2017). He has been a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton and is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal Law and Philosophy as well as Co-Director of the Rutgers Institute for Law and Philosophy.

Professor Oberdiek is the 2023 recipient of the Fred Berger Memorial Prize in Philosophy of Law, awarded by the American Philosophical Association.

About Australian Centre for Private Law Events

The mission of the ​Australian Centre for Private Law is to foster the development and understanding of the private law through advanced theoretical, doctrinal, empirical and historical research, and the dissemination of that research through education and professional outreach. By supporting the work of its Fellows, the ACPL seeks to promote research in all areas of private law and to establish itself as a research centre of national and international importance. The core initiatives of ACPL are:

Research: To advance a deeper understanding of the structure, principles and policies of the private law through advanced theoretical, comparative, and empirical analysis.

Education: To promote, facilitate and disseminate the results of that research for the benefit of Australia’s social and economic fabric.

Professional Outreach: To engage the judiciary and members of the legal profession in discussion about the values, goals and methods of private law and the respective roles of the judiciary, the legal profession and the academy in the interpretation and reform of private law.

The ACPL embraces all branches of private law, including the law of contract, torts, trusts, equity, property, unjust enrichment, including theoretical and jurisprudential dimensions and contextual applications thereof.


Level 3, Forgan Smith Building, The University of Queensland, St Lucia
And via Zoom
Law School Board Room (W353)