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Monday, May 03, 2010

Shooting Fish in a Barrel? The Economic Loss Rule

British Petroleum's oil spill in the Gulf certainly provides ample opportunities to teach or, at this point in the semester, to test the Economic Loss Rule.  In fact, it is such a great candidate for an exam hypothetical, it is like shooting fish in a barrel, if you'll pardon the expression.  Essentially, the BP oil spill is the Testbank case times a hundred, with the specter of unlimited liability looming large, and it will be interesting to see if this very dramatic case results in some expansion of the Economic Loss Rule to allow more injured parties--parties without physical injury or property damage--to recover. 

I'll be teaching the Economic Loss Rule in Advanced Torts this summer at the University of Montpellier, but I'm very curious how many Torts professors out there teach it in the first-year Torts class.  I have taught the Economic Loss Rule to 1L students before, but in a four-hour class something had to give, and it seemed natural to give up one of the most complicated and confused doctrines in all of Torts.  Now I'm wondering if that was the right choice.  What do you think?  

Posted by Lyrissa Lidsky on May 3, 2010 at 09:49 PM in Teaching Law, Torts | Permalink


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I am teaching it tonight in Week 6 of Torts I as part of a six-unit, two-term, Torts I/Torts II course. My casebook edits the Testbank case more heavily than does the Prosser casebook. It also introduces the economic-loss doctrine with a full page of explanatory text before reproducing the edited case and then follows the case with a long paragraph of additional summary and explanation. I still doubt that students really get it, but the BP event certainly increases its relevance and should make it easier to teach.

Posted by: Nelson | Jun 7, 2010 5:16:01 PM

It was certainly taught by professor Henry Drummonds in my first year torts class (four units) at Lewis and Clark in 2008.

Posted by: John | Jun 1, 2010 12:46:06 AM

I teach it but in a six-unit Torts. When I taught the course in four units, I did include it but it was integrated with the duty material so it didn't take long and is theoretically consistent.

Posted by: Amy | May 4, 2010 2:08:24 PM

I do teach it in my four-hour class. I find it a useful representation of the wide range of issues involved in no- or limited-duty rules. That said, it's a bear of a case (Testbank, that is) and I question my decision to teach it every year.

Posted by: Bill Childs | May 4, 2010 9:53:29 AM

I do not teach it in my 4 hour first year class.

Posted by: Mark McKenna | May 3, 2010 10:00:44 PM

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