Limited liability and the public's health

J Law Med Ethics. 2007 Winter;35(4):599-608, 512. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2007.00183.x.


Corporations, through their products and behaviors, exert a strong effect on the well-being of populations. Industries including firearms, motor vehicles, tobacco, and alcohol produce and market products negatively impact public health. All of these industries are composed of corporations, which are legal fictions designed to provide limited exposure to liability, through a variety of mechanisms, for their investors and directors. This means that when actions are taken on behalf of a corporate entity, the individuals responsible generally will not face personal liability for the negative results of those actions. To illustrate this point, this article considers corporate products or practices that have caused harm in varied settings, and analyzes the role that limited liability played in these cases. In addition, the article identifies ways to modify or eliminate some of the principles and practices that accompany limited liability.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Consumer Product Safety / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Liability, Legal*
  • Public Health / legislation & jurisprudence*