easy to understand resources on tort law?
March 21, 2010 4:41 PM   Subscribe

easy to understand resources on tort law?

i'm a second-year undergrad taking an intro business law course as part of a requirement for the business school.

i have a test on tort law tomorrow so i'm reviewing my notes, but i cannot make sense of anything i'm reading.

just to throw out some things i'm learning about
  • substantial certainty test
  • battery vs assault
  • false imprisonment
  • trespassing (to land, chattel, conversion?)
  • defamation
  • negligence
  • 'duty' ?
  • proximate cause?
it's not too hard to read, memorize, spit-out definitions.. but i'm having trouble putting it all together. also, the exam style will be that we will be given a hypothetical situation/story and will have to discuss and analyze any torts involved.

here is an example we received in class:
1. explain the difference between tortuous and negligent activity
2. analyze the elements of negligence related to each person
3. understand “proximate cause”

Chris is the manager of dairy products at Casey’s Supermarket. Chris’s job on Thursday was to stock the dairy cooler with all the fresh supplies that came in early Thursday morning. Chris loaded the “wheel dolly” with milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt. Chris then proceeded to pull the “dolly” toward the display cooler. As Chris turned the corner, a 3 pound tub of Large Curd Cottage Cheese fell off the dolly, splattered on the floor, and spread out along the aisle. Chris did not notice this occurrence and began loading the display case.

Ten minutes later Shopper was pushing his cart down aisle 9. As Shopper attempted to turn the corner into Aisle 10, he slipped on the Cottage Cheese causing the cart to be pushed forward. Shopper fell to the floor banging his elbow.

The cart shot forward and hit Mrs. Tulip as she bent over to examine the newly arrived Asparagus Tips. Mrs. Tulip was thrown forward and landed in the produce display. This caused a stack of bananas to fall to the floor. Rip, Dip, and Nip, all shoppers in the Store, proceeded to slip and fall on the banana peels.

Punk noticed the slipping shoppers and decided to have some fun. Punk got a running start and “sprawled out belly down” on top of the banana peels. Punk was traveling at 60 miles per hour down Aisle 11 and proceeded out the front door of Casey’s Supermarket. Punk broke his hand on the door.

A car driven by Sara, noticed Punk, and swerved to avoid hitting him. Sara hit a telephone pole, and banged her head on the dashboard, causing a cut above her left eye. The lamp on the top of the telephone pole broke loose and fell, hitting Pancho on the right shoulder. Pancho screamed and fell in pain.

Shopper, Mrs. Tulip, Rip, Dip, Nip, Punk, Sara and Pancho want to sue Casey’s Supermarket in Negligence.
Be prepared to orally discuss each person’s chance of success.
we get pretty silly stories but we need to apply the concepts we learned in class... according to my teacher, we'd have to identify the tort, and then "march down the elements" which i am having trouble doing.

so if anyone can help me out and/or point me to some resources i'd be so grateful!
posted by qvinx to Law & Government (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Examples and Explanations: Torts. This is a very standard, very readable, and very well-done supplement for first year law students. If you don't like the layout of the E&E book, check out Mastering Torts.

I would also recommend reading one of the many guides to how to answer law school exam questions. Whether or not the IRAC format works for you, become familiar with it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:54 PM on March 21, 2010

The test is tomorrow, so I don't think buying a book from Amazon is going to work.

Try Googling [law school outline torts].
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:08 PM on March 21, 2010

Here's the basic approach I applied in law school Torts class (which I did pretty well in or else I wouldn't suggest this):

1. Put hats on all of the people in the story. Chris, for example, is an Employee. He's also a Manager. These hats or labels help you think about the legal relationships between the parties.

2. Identify the injuries to people or property in the story. All torts ultimately revolve around some injury, even if it's something as slight as trespass to land where the only injury may be to the sanctity of your private property. But remember: just because there's an injury doesn't mean there's been a tort.

3. Next, consider each of the three major theories of liability: intentional misconduct, negligence/gross negligence/recklessness, and strict liability. For each theory of liability, consider whether it applies to each injury. List the elements of the theory, then see if you can match each element with a piece of evidence from the facts.

For intentional misconduct, run down your list of intentional torts: assault, battery, trespass to land, trespass to chattels, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, conversion, etc.

For negligence, apply the elements of negligence. Remember that negligence may be shown in many ways.

For strict liability, consider whether the injuring party was engaged in any of the activities for which people are held strict liable for resulting injuries (e.g., blasting with dynamite).

4. If a prima facie case of a tort has been identified, then consider any defenses that may exist.

And finally, always, always, always give reasons for everything you say. The magic word is "because." Your answers should be littered with it.

For example, don't just say "Person X acted unreasonably and caused Person Y's injury therefore Person X was negligent." Instead say "Person X's actions were unreasonable because reasonable people don't shoot guns in the air while rollerskating drunk down a busy street because rollerskating down a busy street is very dangerous, shooting a firearm inside the city limits is illegal and very dangerous, and doing so while drunk and rollerskating makes the risk of someone being hit much higher."
posted by jedicus at 5:09 PM on March 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Marching down the elements" is the process of identifying the elements of the cause of action and determining whether each element has been met by the facts. For example, in the story you gave about the Shopper you might discuss Shopper's case this way:

"A successful claim for negligence requires showing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach was the proximate and factual cause of the plaintiff's injury.

Chris is an employee of Casey's Supermarket, so under the doctrine of respondeat superior Casey's Supermarket is generally liable for torts that Chris commits in the course of his employment. Thus, if Chris is liable to Shopper, then Casey's is probably liable to Shopper.

Businesses owe a duty of care to their customers. In particular, their customers are business invitees, and thus the business owes a duty to inspect the premises and make it safe for customers.

Here, Chris owed a duty of care to Shopper because Shopper was a customer of the business of which Chris is an employee. Chris breached that duty when he failed to notice that a three pound tub of cottage cheese had struck the ground next to him and broke open. Such an event would have caused a loud noise, and a reasonable store manager would have noticed the sound, inspected the mess, and made it safe for customers. Even a warning sign might have been sufficient to avoid the accident, but Chris did not even take that minimal step.

Chris's breach of his duty was the actual cause of Shopper's injury (the banged elbow) because Shopper would not have slipped but for the cottage cheese on the floor. Chris's breach was also the proximate or legal cause of the injury because cottage cheese is slippery, three pounds of cottage cheese is sufficient to create a very large spill, and it was foreseeable that someone would slip on a large spill of something slippery.

Thus, Chris and his employer Casey's are liable to Shopper for Shopper's injury because Chris owed Shopper a duty of care, breached that duty, and the breach was the factual and proximate cause of Shopper's injury."

That's just a quick, off-the-cuff answer. You'd also discuss possible defenses, of course.

So on an exam you would repeat that process for each injury. In this case you'd probably say that Mrs. Tulip, Rip, Dip, Nip could successfully sue the store but that Punk could not because of his contributory negligence or because someone intentionally surfing on spilled banana peels is not a foreseeable result of spilling some cottage cheese. Sara and Pancho's injuries are even further removed from the original negligent act so you'd come to a similar conclusion there.
posted by jedicus at 5:27 PM on March 21, 2010

But yeah, definitely Google some law school torts outlines. Those will distill the elements of the various torts into a (hopefully) easy to read format that will be easier to commit to memory. There are tons floating around on the internet.
posted by jedicus at 5:53 PM on March 21, 2010

Go over to cali.org and run some practice lessons.

Go to the library and check out Examples and Explanations or any of the review books that has practice essays and example answers.

Good luck making sense of torts.
posted by motsque at 7:49 PM on March 21, 2010

mefi mail me and i'll send you my torts outline. it's super detailed but there are summaries at the beginning of every section
posted by anthropomorphic at 7:53 PM on March 21, 2010

thanks to everyone who responded!!

turns out tomorrow's in-class part of the exam is only going to be on negligence, and the other stuff (intentional torts) will be part of a take-home exam due on wednesday! :) i'm less anxious now.
posted by qvinx at 9:46 PM on March 21, 2010

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