From an economic point of view, liability for environmental damages aims at two goals. On the one hand, liability should efficiently allocate the risk imposed by the stochastic nature of environmental damages. On the other hand, ex post liability should generate ex ante incentives to take appropriate precautions against environmental risk. In reality, precautionary incentives generated by civil liability for environmental damages are often reduced by various impediments to the enforcement of legal claims. One of the key impediments is uncertain causation, especially when precautionary pollution control measures cannot be easily observed. This book analyzes the consequences of asymmetric information regarding the precautionary pollution control measures on enforcing legal claims, and, hence, on the precautionary incentives. The question is discussed against the background of the 1991 German Environmental Liability Act (Umwelthaftungsggesetz).
In the first part of this book, Elga Bartsch gives an overview of selected liability systems and then derives the conditions for an optimal liability rule in a situation of uncertain causation and imperfect information within the principal-agent framework. This theoretical discussion is followed by an empirical analysis of the impact of the German Environmental Liability Act on the German chemicals industry by means of an event study. Its results indicate that the change in the legal framework did not have an adverse effect on the German chemicals industry.
Publisher: The University of Michigan Press