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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 601710

Automobile Claims Study records of Robert Keeton


This collection containes materials relating to Keeton's Automobile Claims Study. The Study was initiated in 1963 to survey the automobile insurance system, suggest reform by introducing a new concept of liability in automobile accidents, and propose legislation based on the new concept. The Study focused in particular on circumstances in Massachusetts, and it led to the passage of the Massachusetts Personal Injury Protection Act of 1970 and subsequent acts.


  • Creation: 1962-1977

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


1 collection (60 boxes, 17 Paige boxes)

The Robert E. Keeton Papers relating to Professor Keeton's Automobile Claims Study cover the years 1962 to 1977, with the bulk of the material falling into the 1963 to 1970 period.

The Study was initiated in early 1963 with the aim of (a) making an in-depth survey of the automobile insurance system as it existed in 1963, (b) suggesting reform by introducing a new concept in regard to liability in automobile accidents, and (c) proposing legislation based on this new concept. The new form of insurance envisioned was termed "basic protection" insurance. It guaranteed speedy and direct reimbursement for actual losses sustained, below a certain maximum, thereby eliminating lengthy court proceedings or the frustrations of haggling with insurance companies. The Study focussed in particular on circumstances and needs in Massachusetts, and it led to the passage of the Massachusetts Personal Injury Protection Act of August 1970, and subsequent Acts.

Financial support for the study was provided by the Walter E. Meyer Research Institute of Law in a grant to the Harvard Law School. Professor Keeton served as Director, and Professor Jeffrey O'Connell, initially of the University of Iowa Law School, was the Associate Director.

The Papers relating to the Automobile Claims Study were organized into the following Sub-series: Plans for the study; correspondence: chronological; correspondence: alphabetical; conferences; legislative bills and hearings; "no-fault" in the 1970's; source material; and miscellany. They consist of correspondence (letters received and carbons of letters sent);reports; memoranda; agenda; minutes of meetings; lists; charts; tables; forms; receipts; drafts of writings; editorials; critiques reviews; legislative bills; newspaper and journal clippings; pamphlets; other printed items. They are in holograph, typed, printed and electrostatic copy form.

Keeton's and O'Connell's drafts of their proposal for a different type of system of automobile insurance culminated in the publication of BASIC PROTECTION FOR THE TRAFFIC VICTIM - A BLUEPRINT FOR REFORMING AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE (Little, Brown and Company, 1965). Another monograph which was the outgrowth of their Study was AFTER CARS CRASH - THE NEED FOR LEGAL AND INSURANCE REFORM (Dow Jones -Irwin, Inc., 1967). The Papers include drafts of parts of these manuscripts, correspondence re publication matters, research material, and fan mail.

Correspondence in general is with legislators and other officials in Massachusetts, other States, and the Federal government; members of professional and insurance trade organizations; members of Keeton's consultive panel; concerned citizens. Professor OO'Connell, who spent the academic year 1963/4 at the Harvard Law School collaborating with Keeton on the initial Study and the draft of their proposal, subsequently accepted a teaching position at the University of Illinois College of Law, so that the correspondence between Keeton and O'Connell is quite extensive. Among Professor Keeton's other correspondents were: Jack E. Birkinsha; Ralph S. Brown; Jack Davies; Michael S. Dukakis; James D. Ghiardi; Livingston Hall; Harriet Hardy; Frank Harwayne; Alfred Knopf, Jr.-.; -Allan H. blcCoid; Daniel Patrick Moynihan; Elliott L. Richardson; Maurice Rosenberg; John L. Saltonstall, Jr.; Donald E. Shapiro; Robert E. Slater; Robert Er. Stone; Andre" Tunc; John A. Volpe; C. Arthur Williams., Jr.

In the notes which accompany the entries in this Series, Robert E. Keeton is abbreviated REK, Jeffrey O'Connell to JO, and their joint study, BASIC PROTECTION FOR THE TRAFFIC VICTIM, to BPFTTV.

Historical/Biographical Information

Keeton, Robert E., Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA, 02138.

B.B.A. 1940, LL.B 1941, University of Texas; S.J.D. 1956, Harvard.

Law practice, Houston, Texas, 1941-1942, 1945-1951.

Law teaching, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, 1951-1953; Harvard University, 1953-????

Active duty, USNR, 1942-1945.

Admitted to practice, Texas, 1941; Massachusetts, 1954.

Author of law review articles, primarily in the areas of Torts and Insurance Law, and the following books: Trial Tactics and Methods (1954); Venturing to Do Justice - Reforming Private Law (1969); Basic Text on Insurance Law (1971); (co-author) Keeton & O'Connell, Basic Protection for the Traffic Victim (1965). Member Am. Bar; Am. Law Institute.

Series List

  1. Series I. Plans for Automobile Claims Study.
  2. Series II. Correspondence, chronological, 1960s.
  3. Series III. Correspondence, alphabetical.
  4. Series IV. Conferences, Meetings, Institutes.
  5. Series V. Legislative bills and hearings.
  6. Series VI. "No-fault" in the 1970's.
  7. Series VII. Source material.
  8. Series VIII. Miscellany.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Robert E. Keeton in 1980.

General note

Paige Box # 1

  1. U.S. Dent. of Transportation studies of automobile accidents, and a few other prined items

Paige Box # 2

  1. Journals and other printed publications containing articles on no-fault and related topics

Paige Box # 3

  1. Legal briefs etc. from REK's Texas law practice

Paige Boxes # 4 and 5

  1. Uncut journals, magazines

Paige Box # 6

  1. Automobile Clains Study printed items

Paige Boxes # 7, 8, 9

  1. Material marked by REK: "Eventual throw-out"

Paige Boxes # 10 and 11

  1. Material to go back to REK for checking and possible discarding

General note

The title of this collection was changed in November 2019 to better reflect the collection's content. The former title was "The Robert E. Keeton papers".

Processing Information

Prepared by Erika Chadbourn and staff, 1980.

Automobile Claims Study records of Robert Keeton, 1962-1977: Finding Aid.
Harvard Law School LibraryCambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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