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Infrastructure Resilience Conference 2018

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Infrastructure Resilience and Litigation

If an infrastructure provided by a firm fails, this does not only have engineering and financial implications, but can also have legal ramifications. In the wake of disruptive events, infrastructure users, neighbors or victims may sue infrastructure owners and operators for performance failures or damages that result from the owners’ or operators’ insufficient preparedness for such events.

This study analyses the importance and development of litigation related to infrastructure resilience. We are interested in whether infrastructure owners and operators fulfill their legal obligations to prepare for disruptive events and whether their compliance varies according to different kinds of disruptive events, types of industries, or areas of the law. For disputes decided by a court, we deem an infrastructure litigation-resilient if the court concludes that its owner or operator has fulfilled its obligations and/or is not liable. As a first step, the study focuses on a comprehensive hand-coded dataset of U.S. Court of Appeals decisions dealing with infrastructure-related private or regulatory claims. We focus on infrastructure resilience in sectors where litigation occurs most frequently, in particular in transportation, energy extraction and distribution, power, water, and telecommunications networks.

Our preliminary results indicate that litigation is most likely to be the result of technological hazard, followed by natural hazard, human-caused hazard coming last. We also provide evidence that plaintiffs are more likely to sue for damages or fines than to request performance or infrastructure improvement injunctions. The study thereby contributes to an emerging literature on how the legal system interacts with infrastructure resilience.

Stefan Bechtold
ETH Zurich

Ettore Croci
Universita’ Cattolica

Luh Luh Lan
National University of Singapore

Jinhoa Lee
ETH Future Resilient Systems


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