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Western establishing tort law research group

|Written By Michael McKiernan
Western establishing tort law research group
Professor Stephen Pitel says the group will help put Western on the map by creating a focal point for research.

The University of Western Ontario hopes a new research group will help establish the school as a worldwide hub for the study of tort law.

The tort law research group, launched in October, brings together experts in the field to disseminate research throughout Canada and the common law world.

Erika Chamberlain, a professor with Western’s Faculty of Law, has been drumming up support for the group for more than a year and says her fellow profs didn’t need much convincing of its value.

“We have a good quarter to a third of the faculty who teach and research in tort law, so they’re very happy with it,” she says.

In emeritus professor Gerald Fridman, the faculty has one of Canada’s leading tort law scholars, while several professors are working on a new edition of The Law of Torts in Canada, a key text in the area.

Stephen Pitel, another co-founder, says the group will help put Western on the map by creating a focal point for research.

“Members of the faculty are quite keen to be involved because it gives them a platform for work they are doing and to have it promoted in a way that might be more difficult to do if it was just on an individual basis. We’ve been doing tort law research for a number of years, but this makes it more visible,” he says. “And it helps create awareness of Western as an institution because people will more readily associate them and their activities with Western.”

Pitel says eventually the group could attract professors and graduate students with an interest in tort law to Western. The faculty is currently in the process of creating a PhD program.

The group will be made up of faculty and graduate students in the LLM program, but JD students will be encouraged to organize events, assist with research, and even submit their own independent research projects in tort law.

Professor Jason Neyers says students with an interest in tort law and civil litigation stand to gain from high-profile guest speakers, intensive courses, and advanced classes the group plans to put on in the future. He has already had requests from experts as far afield as Australia who want to speak at Western. He wants the group to be a forum for competing views on tort law.

“It’s like when you have two continents coming together; they smash into each other and you get mountains thrown up. That’s the thinking, if you get people with diametrically opposed views, just the clash of these things will throw up some new ideas,” he says.

For now, the group is already at work organizing the Obligations VI conference, a major private law gathering held every two years. When it comes to London, Ont., in 2012 it will be its first time in North America after previous stops in Melbourne, Oxford, England, and Singapore.

“It travels in some pretty prestigious circles, so we’re very excited about hosting,” says Pitel.