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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Does Teaching Torts Warp Your Brain?

Maybe something just happens after 10+ years of teaching Torts.  Delve each week into human suffering...in sets a bit of desensitization. Every terrible tragedy in the news -- say, a horrible hayride accident in Maine--drives the Torts Teacher to start asking questions.

Does primary assumption of risk bar a hayride accident victim's lawsuit? (No). Has industry custom been violated? (Perhaps).  There's a little voice in one ear opining, "too soon," and one in the other ear whispering, "teachable moment." Who knew, for instance, that Maine has a two-year old rec use-like "Agritourism Activities" law? (HT: Portland Press Herald). That there were attorneys specializing in hayride accidents?  

Or consider a simple object encountered in daily life - say, a pencil.  The Torts Teacher finds fascinating the question of how many different ways one could accidentally cause one's self fatal injury through encountering said object. (42).

The three D's for a Torts Teacher are certainly not Discipline, Dedication, and Determination.  They are Death, Dismemberment, and (Permanent) Disability.

Maybe this isn't unique to my favorite first-year subject.  Maybe Evidence teachers reject new science stories not adequately supported by peer review.  Maybe labor law professors like Joe Slater Al Snow spend their days pondering whether, were they only in a union, they could file a grievance over some joke lobbed in their direction at the water cooler (bugged or otherwise).

Personally, the biggest effect of teaching Torts on my thinking arose after I became a parent.  Baby walkers?  Absolutely not.  Keeping toddler in a carseat after exceeding its recommended weight? Misuse!  Preschooler riding inside the shopping cart?  Not on my watch. Product recalls?  Reasonably, nay - vigilently!, monitored.  In fact, this laptop just got recalled so I need to sign off right now.


Posted by Geoffrey Rapp on October 16, 2014 at 10:04 AM in Blogging, Current Affairs, Life of Law Schools, Torts | Permalink


Torts is definitely the best first year subject. I tell my Torts students on the first day of class that they will start seeing torts -- or at least potential/plausible torts -- in the world on a regular basis. As to "too soon?" questions, I've been pondering some issues involving Ebola. Also, as a parent, I assume you've signed some waiver forms; if you're like me, you might have spent more time reading them before signing than your wife or child would have preferred.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Oct 16, 2014 11:04:38 AM

"Torts Professors" don't exist. Professors who teach torts "and" other courses are plentiful. If you teach Torts and Juvenile Law you may question whether to have a child. Torts and Health Law- if harmed by a defective product, should you go to a doctor or hospital? Torts and Criminal Procedure - Were you trespassing when you leaned over a fence and picked a marijuana bud off your neighbor's plants, and was it a search when the police dog smelled your pocket containing that bud? After teaching Torts for 30 years, I have many "ands".

Posted by: Bill Patton | Oct 16, 2014 10:41:21 AM

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