"The legal system ostensibly plays a central role in disaster prevention, response, and management. Attorneys, members of the judiciary, and decision-makers at every level of government must anticipate and respond to disasters in a coordinated manner. It is increasingly clear, however, that the law is woefully unprepared to handle disasters. A growing community of academics recognizes this problem, and is formulating solutions under the rubric of disaster law. This emerging legal academic field encompasses a wide-ranging, intra- and inter-disciplinary body of thought, research and dialogue which seeks to inform and improve disaster-related decision-making.
"On June 25th, 2007, eighteen law professors and legal practitioners who count disasters among their primary research interests, gathered at U.C. Berkeley Law School to chart disaster law's course for the immediate and long-term future. Appendix A, Workshop Participants and Agenda. Over the course of the day, participants highlighted a wide variety of important intellectual concerns and potential problem-solving strategies regarding disaster management.
"In a series of productive discussions, participants first addressed central normative issues of disaster law, including terminology and the role of the legal academy. The group then addressed four sub-areas of disaster law: international collaboration, social justice, compensation and insurance, and prevention and response. Participants' recommendations for action included the creation of an annual disaster law conference, the integration of disaster law into law teaching, and an increased internet presence.
"This white paper, a record of the milestone June 25th workshop, is intended as a
tool for use by disaster law practitioners and academics in mapping the direction and
future of the field."—Executive Summary.
"Hurricane Katrina not only devastated a large area of the nation's Gulf coast, it also raised fundamental questions about ways the nation can, and should, deal with the inevitable problems of economic risk and social responsibility. This volume gathers leading experts to examine lessons that Hurricane Katrina teaches us about better assessing, perceiving, and managing risks from future disasters.
"In the years ahead we will inevitably face more problems like those caused by Katrina, from fire, earthquake, or even a flu pandemic. America remains in the cross hairs of terrorists, while policy makers continue to grapple with important environmental and health risks. Each of these scenarios might, in itself, be relatively unlikely to occur. But it is statistically certain that we will confront such catastrophes, or perhaps one we have never imagined, and the nation and its citizenry must be prepared to act. That is the fundamental lesson of Katrina.
"The 20 contributors to this volume address questions of public and private roles in assessing, managing, and dealing with risk in American society and suggest strategies for moving ahead in rebuilding the Gulf coast."
"This symposium provides a forum for scholars to begin conceptualizing a new field of legal scholarship devoted to catastrophic risks. It is hard to think of anything equally important that has received so little sustained attention from lawyers and law professors. Hurricane Katrina involved over a thousand deaths and $100 billion in losses. There is no reason to consider Katrina the 'worst case scenario.' Yet, scholars have not yet systematically addressed the legal and policy issues posed by major disasters. Ultimately, the goal should be assembling the best portfolio of social policies, institutions, and legal rules to deal with catastrophic risks—a portfolio that includes prevention measures, mitigation incentives, emergency response strategies, liability rules, insurance, and reconstruction planning. In this symposium, papers by legal scholars and policy analysts will address these as well as other issues relating to this critically important subject."—Dan Farber, Editor, Introduction. Access to this bepress journal requires a subscription.
"The Natural Hazards Review stands on the realization that natural disaster losses result from interactions between the physical world, the constructed environment, and the character of the societies and people who occupy them. The journal is dedicated to bringing together the physical, social, and behavioral sciences; engineering; and the regulatory and policy environments to provide a forum for cutting edge, holistic, and cross-disciplinary approaches to natural hazards loss and cost reduction.... Social and behavioral sciences topics addressed include a range of issues related to hazard mitigation and human response as well as significant issues related to the built environment such as land use, building standards, and the role of financial markets and insurance."—Aim and Scope.
Judge Jack B. Weinstein, senior federal judge in the Eastern District of New York, has presided over many of the landmark mass tort cases involving Agent Orange, DES, asbestos litigation, repetitive stress injury, and other environmental toxic torts. He published his landmark decisions in these cases as well alongside articles he has written analyzing the problems relating to complex mass tort litigation. The book documents prominent features of mass tort litigation, and Judge Weinstein's views concerning the most fair and efficient resolution of these massive litigations.
Chapter 2 deals specifically with "The Law's Reaction to Disasters", discussing various types of disasters, jurisdictional issues, "desirable conditions for disaster management by courts", procedural tools and models, and proposing a national disaster court.
"The mission of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center is to carry out a program of basic and applied research to promote effective policies and programs for low-probability events with potentially catastrophic consequences. The Center is especially concerned with natural and technological hazards and with the integration of industrial risk management policies with insurance. The Center is also concerned with promoting a dialogue among industry, government, interest groups and academics through its research and policy publications and through sponsored workshops, roundtables and forums."