Internet of Things

The Internet of Torts


The proliferating internet-connected devices that constitute the “Internet of Things” (IoT) grant companies unprecedented control over consumers’ use of property, often at the expense of consumer safety. Companies can now remotely alter or deactivate items, a practice that causes foreseeable property damage and even bodily injury when an otherwise operational car, alarm system, or implanted medical device abruptly ceases to function.

Even as the potential for harm escalates, contract and tort law work in tandem to shield companies from liability. Exculpatory clauses and liability restrictions limit damages; disclaimers and express warranties bar implied warranty claims; and contractual notice of remote interference precludes common law tort suits. Meanwhile, absent a better understanding of how IoT-enabled injuries operate, judges are likely to apply products liability and negligence standards in ways that relieve IoT companies of liability. In short, legal responsibility for this 21st century version of harmful remote action is not appropriately allocated by our 20th century civil liability regime.

In the wake of the Industrial Revolution, courts limited company liability by creating the modern version of “negligence”; meanwhile, the rise of mass production and cross-country transportation prompted the products liability revolution. Once again, a new technology has altered social and power relations between industry and individuals, creating an inflection point where we must decide which entity should bear the costs of the associated harms. This Article argues that current civil liability regime is overly protective of companies and proposes reforms to unconscionability, duty, and causation standards to advance efficiency and fairness.

Accountability for the Internet of Torts

Law & Political Economy (July 17, 2018)

Introducing the Internet of Torts

Law & Political Economy (July 16, 2018)