Tort law has long served as a remedy for those injured by products—and injuries from artificial intelligence (“AI”) are no exception. While many scholars have rightly contemplated the possible tort claims involving AI-driven technologies that cause injury, there has been little focus on the subsequent analysis of defenses. One of these defenses, assumption of risk, has been given particularly short shrift, with most scholars addressing it only in passing. This is intriguing, particularly because assumption of risk has the power to completely bar recovery for a plaintiff who knowingly and voluntarily engaged with a risk. In reality, such a defense may prove vital to shaping the likelihood of success for these prospective plaintiffs injured by AI, first-adopters who are often eager to “voluntarily” use the new technology but simultaneously often lacking in “knowledge” about AI’s risks.
To remedy this oversight in the scholarship, this Article tackles assumption of risk head-on, demonstrating why this defense may have much greater influence on the course of the burgeoning new field of “AI torts” than originally believed. It analyzes the historic application of assumption of risk to emerging technologies, extrapolating its potential use in the context of damages caused by robotic, autonomous, and facial recognition technologies. This Article then analyzes assumption of risk’s relationship to informed consent, another key doctrine that revolves around appreciation of risks, demonstrating how an extension of informed consent principles to assumption of risk can establish a more nuanced approach for a future that is sure to involve an increasing number of AI-human interactions—and AI torts. In addition to these AI-human interactions, this Article’s reevaluation also can help in other assumption of risk analyses and tort law generally to better address the evolving innovation-risk- consent trilemma.
Amy L. Stein, Assuming the Risks of Artificial Intelligence , 102 B.U. L. Rev. 979 (2022)