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Technological Disasters, Litigation Stress, and the Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

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The legal system in the United States is uniquely conflict-oriented, expensive, and legalistic. From the perspective of victims, we contend that adversarial litigation is particularly ineffective as a means of resolving conflicts that typically ensue in the aftermath of technological disasters. The purpose of this paper is threefold. First, we discuss why the psychosocial impact of litigation on litigants following a technological disaster is particularly damaging. Second, examining longitudinal data collected following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, we demonstrate that the litigation process itself functions as a source of secondary trauma for litigants. Third, we provide suggestions for bypassing the litigation process altogether, via alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

Although it may be that we have exchanged swords and cudgels for subpoenas and depositions, an aura of combat continues to hover about the judicial process, and combat produces casualties. Strasburger (1999: 203)

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2004

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