2016 Academic Symposium

The Demise of the Grand Bargain: Compensation for Injured Workers in the 21st Century


September 23, 2016, Rutgers Law School, Camden, NJ

Co-sponsored by the Pound Civil Justice Institute, Northeastern University School of Law and Rutgers Center for Risk and Responsibility.

Rutgers University Law Review Vol. 69, No. 3, containing final symposium papers.

Symposium Videos:


     PANEL I: The Challenges of the Changing Legal Structure of Workers’ Compensation and the Changing Workforce

     PANEL II: Compensating Injured Workers in the U.S.: Back to the Future or Back to the Drawing Board?

     PANEL III: Workplace Injuries as a Constitutional Law Issue

     PANEL IV: Alternative Structures for Addressing Workplace Injuries: Tort Law and Beyond

Symposium Papers & PowerPoints   /   Timed Agenda   /   Faculty Bios   /   Symposium Contributors

Workers’ compensation systems arose as one of the great political compromises of the Progressive Era: workers injured on the job gave up the right to sue their employers for personal injury damages in return for less generous but more certain benefits. This exchange became known as The Grand Bargain.

This bargain has survived over the ensuing century despite frequent political battles in the states, often fought below the national radar screen. Over the past 25 years, the attacks on these systems have escalated. Most recently, a politically powerful coalition has proposed further constraints on benefits through implementation of “opt-out” systems, which allow employers to substitute self-designed and self-implemented programs for the traditional statutory system. Remedies have become so constricted in some states that courts have questioned whether a quid pro quo still supports the Grand Bargain.

This conference will re-examine The Grand Bargain in light of evolving legal doctrine, a changed labor market, and changing politics. How well is the workers’ compensation system serving its original purposes of swift, sure, and efficient remedies? Does an employer-based insurance scheme for workplace injuries supplanting tort remedies remain desirable? How does the common law command of a remedy for every legal wrong affect the architecture of workers’ compensation systems? What responsibilities should employers and employees bear in this system? What are the ramifications of a move towards universal health insurance? Responses to these questions can inform debates occurring now in courts and legislatures across America.

Paper Writers* and Discussants
Leslie I. Boden, Boston University School of Public Health
John F. Burton, Jr., Rutgers School  of Management and Labor Relations (emeritus)
George W. Conk, Fordham University School of Law
Charles R. Davoli, practitioner; Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group 
Michael C. Duff, University of Wyoming College of Law
Price V. Fishback, University of Arizona, Department of Economics
Hon. Dan Friedman, Maryland Court of Special Appeals
Monica Galizzi, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Department of Economics
Justin R. Long, Wayne State University Law School
James Lynch, Chief Actuary, Insurance Information Institute
*Alison D. Morantz, Stanford Law School
*Robert L. Rabin, Stanford Law School
*Adam Scales, Rutgers Law School
*Emily A. Spieler, Northeastern University School of Law
Hon. David B. Torrey, Workers’ Compensation Judge, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
*Robert F. Williams, Rutgers Law School

Participants and Cost
Attendance at the Symposium is free for law professors, law students, judges, law clerks, non-profit advocates, and attorney Pound Fellows. Practitioners attend for $75, which includes the cost of lunch and a reception.  CLE filing fees in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, where the program is accredited, are additional.

The Pound Civil Justice Institute
The Pound Civil Justice Institute is a national legal “think tank” created by pioneering members of the trial bar and dedicated to ensuring access to justice for ordinary citizens. Through its activities, the Institute works to give lawyers, judges, legal educators and the public a balanced view of the issues affecting the U.S. civil justice system.  Pound's work is supported by dues donations from attorney members called Fellows and by program donations. Pound is a 501(c)3 organization. Learn more about Pound's work, and about becoming a Pound Fellow, at http://poundinstitute.org.

Northeastern University School of Law
Northeastern University School of Law is a national leader in melding experiential education with a theoretical and practical understanding of the role of law in society and the ways in which law advances the public good. The law school advances this vision through rigorous classroom instruction and intensive experiential learning, innovative disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and scholarship, and real world connections in service, scholarship and teaching. Ranked #1 for practical training by The National Jurist, the school's signature Cooperative Legal Education Program enhances students’ on-campus experience by guaranteeing all students, as part of their three year course of study, a full year of professional experience through four legal placements offered by more than 900 participating employers worldwide.

Rutgers Law School
Building on more than 100 years of providing legal education in New Jersey, the newly merged Rutgers Law School, with locations in Camden and Newark, is accredited by the American Bar Association. Steeped in history as a cornerstone of one of the nation’s oldest universities, with a longstanding commitment to social justice, Rutgers is at the forefront of innovation in legal education. With a robust faculty of more than 100 scholars and clinicians, with particular strengths in criminal law, intellectual property, corporate and business law, health law, and public interest law, Rutgers Law offers a comprehensive curriculum, propelled by cutting-edge immersive technology that connects the locations and allows for a fuller range of course offerings. Learn more at law.rutgers.edu.