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Torts Full Course Outline

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*NB: this outline accords with Best et al., Basic Tort Law: Cases, Statutes and Problems (4th ed.)
Overview.................................................................................................................................1
Negligence...............................................................................................................................3
Breach................................................................................................................................................3
Standard of care..................................................................................................................................3
Hand formula....................................................................................................................................................5

Special standards of care....................................................................................................................6
Especially dangerous instrumentalities............................................................................................................6
Emergency........................................................................................................................................................7
Below-average or superior knowledge/skill.....................................................................................................8
Youth................................................................................................................................................................8
Physical disability..............................................................................................................................................9
Mental disability.............................................................................................................................................10
Intoxication.....................................................................................................................................................11

Proving breach in general.................................................................................................................12
Violation of a statute as proof of breach..........................................................................................12
Requirements.................................................................................................................................................12
Specificity........................................................................................................................................................12
Proof of causation..........................................................................................................................................13
Licensing statutes...........................................................................................................................................13
Excuses to negligence per se..........................................................................................................................13
Procedural effects of proof of violation and excuse......................................................................................13
Negligence per se versus strict liability:.........................................................................................................16

Custom..............................................................................................................................................16
Industry...........................................................................................................................................................16
Professional standard.....................................................................................................................................19
Locality rule....................................................................................................................................................20

Res ipsa.............................................................................................................................................20
Elements.........................................................................................................................................................21

But-for Cause...................................................................................................................................23
Alternative tests................................................................................................................................24
Multiple sufficient cause, superseding cause, substantial factor..................................................................24
Restatement (Third)...................................................................................................................................24
Restatement (Second)...............................................................................................................................24
Toxic substances.............................................................................................................................................25
Concert of action............................................................................................................................................25
Alternative liability, market share liability.....................................................................................................27

Policy Limits on Liability (Palsgraf)...................................................................................................28
Proximate Cause..............................................................................................................................29
Directness.........................................................................................................................................30
Substantial factor..............................................................................................................................30
Restatement (Second)...............................................................................................................................30

Foreseeability....................................................................................................................................32
Foreseeability in hindsight.............................................................................................................................33
Thin skull / eggshell rule.................................................................................................................................33
True value / shabby millionaire rule...............................................................................................................34

Risk standard....................................................................................................................................34
Restatement (Third)...................................................................................................................................34

Intervening and superseding forces..................................................................................................34 Duty.................................................................................................................................................36
Restatement (Third) Approach to Duty.............................................................................................36
Foreseeability....................................................................................................................................37
Special relations................................................................................................................................37
Special duty rules............................................................................................................................................39
Rescuers..........................................................................................................................................................39

Negligence: Defenses.......................................................................................................................41
Plaintiff's contributory fault..............................................................................................................41
Contributory negligence.................................................................................................................................41
Modified comparative fault............................................................................................................................41
Pure comparative fault...................................................................................................................................41
Fault as defense..............................................................................................................................................42
Last clear chance doctrine..............................................................................................................................43
Learned Hand method of calculating.............................................................................................................44

Assumption of risk............................................................................................................................44
Express assumption........................................................................................................................................44
Factors for unenforceability...........................................................................................................................45
Implied assumption........................................................................................................................................46

Vicarious Liability.............................................................................................................................47
Respondeat superior.........................................................................................................................47
Tests for scope of employment......................................................................................................................48

Intentional Torts..............................................................................................................................50
Intent generally.................................................................................................................................51
Restatement (Second)...............................................................................................................................51
Restatement (Third)...................................................................................................................................51
Subjective and objective tests for intent........................................................................................................51

Battery..............................................................................................................................................52
Offensive contact............................................................................................................................................54
Indirect contact..............................................................................................................................................54
Dual intent......................................................................................................................................................55

Consent as defense...........................................................................................................................57
Self-defense as defense....................................................................................................................58
Factors to determine reasonableness of actions...........................................................................................59

Defamation (libel).............................................................................................................................60
Invasion of privacy............................................................................................................................61
Types of privacy tort.......................................................................................................................................61

Emotional distress.............................................................................................................................63
Elements of IIED.............................................................................................................................................63
Outrageousness..............................................................................................................................................63
Severe emotional distress..............................................................................................................................64

Recklessness....................................................................................................................................67
Reckless emotional distress..............................................................................................................67
Restatement (Third)...................................................................................................................................67
Restatement (Second)...............................................................................................................................67

Strict Liability...................................................................................................................................68
Animals.............................................................................................................................................68
Wild animals...................................................................................................................................................68
Domesticated animals....................................................................................................................................69
Property damage............................................................................................................................................69
Defenses.........................................................................................................................................................69

Table of Contents Dangerous activities..........................................................................................................................71
Restatement (Second)...............................................................................................................................71
Restatement (Third)...................................................................................................................................72
Defenses.........................................................................................................................................................72

Strict Liability: Products Liability......................................................................................................74
Manufacturing defect.......................................................................................................................74
Intended result test........................................................................................................................................74
Ostensibly identical test.................................................................................................................................74
Indeterminate product defect test:...............................................................................................................74

Design defect....................................................................................................................................78
Restatement (Second) Consumer expectation test.......................................................................................78
Restatement (Third) Risk-utility test..............................................................................................................79
Choosing between CE and RU tests................................................................................................................79
Mandatory proof of a feasible alternative design..........................................................................................82

Warning defect.................................................................................................................................83
Restatement (Second)...............................................................................................................................83
Restatement (Third)...................................................................................................................................83

Defenses...........................................................................................................................................84
Plaintiff's carelessness or misuse of product.................................................................................................84

Table of Contents 1

Overview
What is a tort?
 "A tort is when harm is caused by one person or entity against another person or entity,
and the law determines that a legal wrong has occurred in a way that makes it appropriate to shift the cost of the harm from the injured party to the party that caused the harm."
 Three elements: (1) harm caused, (2) legal wrong, (3) appropriate to shift
Four categories of torts:
 Negligence
 Intentional torts
 Recklessness
 Strict liability
What does tort law signal?
 Notion of equity
 Deterrence
 Desirable norms of conduct

General purpose

Case brought by
Decision
Standard of proof
Remedy

Civil law
Private individuals, one harmed and one who caused the harm. The question is who should bear the cost.
Although there are societal issues at stake because of what tort law signals, it is generally speaking between two private individuals.
Plaintiff or representative of person harmed
Usually decided by judge;
sometimes jury
Preponderance of evidence;
more likely than not.
Usually monetary

Litigation
Decision makers
Table of Contents

Judge or jury

ADR (private arbitration)
Arbitrator

Criminal
Society identifies things that should be subject to a certain kind of punishment.

Government
Jury; judge determined legal rules
Beyond a reasonable doubt
Usually incarceration; limits on freedom; death

ADR (mediation)
Parties 2
Basis for decision

Legal principles

Procedures

FRCP

Precedents

Follow and create precedents

Role of law

Principles

Appealable

Yes

Whatever the parties decide is the basis
Whatever the parties decide is the basis
Needn't follow precedents, unless parties agreed
Determined by parties' agreement
No

Whatever the parties decide is the basis
Whatever the parties decide is the basis
Needn't follow precedents, unless parties agreed
Determined by parties' agreement
Not applicable

Formalist v. Realist approach to tort law:
 Formalist

Judges are well-versed in the law. Legal principles are discernable, and their application to fact patterns is predictable and reasonable.
 Realist

Judges are human. Although socialized in principle, they may bring their human experience to bear on deciding cases, so outcomes are not so predictable.
 Concepts of reasonableness, deterrence, equity and others relate to the formalist/realist debate.
Sources of tort law:
 Tort law tends to be dominated by common law.
 Statutes is next.
 Common law on the statutes.
 Restatement (Second) and Restatement (Third). Second is more common.
Alternative dispute resolution:
 Although many terms are determined by contract, deference to arbitral institutions is increasingly common. One example is American Arbitration Association (AAA). These provide models for resolutions of different types of disputes.

Negligence
Breach
Standard of care

Table of Contents 3
Elements of negligence: plaintiff may recover damages after showing, by a preponderance of evidence,
 Defendant (1) owed the plaintiff a duty to act in a certain way
 Defendant (2) breached the duty by failing to act as well as the duty required
 Defendants (3) caused some (4) harm to the plaintiff
Standard of care
 Legal system controls a fundamental societal issue, since it can establish how careful some people are supposed to be to protect people from other sorts of injury.
 Note the difference between what a reasonably prudent should/would do. Should is
"aspirational."
 Context (time and place) of conduct and judgment affects the standards. You can include anything you think is relevant.
 To what extent should you personalize the 'reasonable person' to the context of the specific defendant? Should we have a 'reasonable woman' standard? Courts vary.
 Alternatives to reasonable person standard: good faith; ordinary or average person;
what would the judge or jury do; industry or community standards
Restatement (Second) of Torts
 §291. Unreasonableness defined.
o Where act should be recognized as risky, act is negligent if risk outweighs the utility of the act or the manner in which it is done.
 §292. Utility of conduct

Social value of interest advanced by conduct, chance interest will be advanced,
availability of alternative ways of advancing interest.
 §293. Magnitude of risk

Social value of imperiled interests, chance of harm to interest, extent of likely harm, number of persons likely harmed
Vaughan v. Menlove (England 1837)
Defendant built hayrick that caught fire, causing damage to neighbor-plaintiff's property. P
alleged that D built hayrick badly in a way that caused it to catch fire. Trial court instructed jury that D was required to have acted as a prudent man would have acted under the circumstances. Jury returned verdict for plaintiff. D obtained new trial on the basis that the jury should have used a "good faith acted to best of judgment" standard, rather than reasonable person standard. If he acted to the best of his judgment, he would not be held responsible for not being sufficiently intelligent to avoid the fire.
 Analysis

The good faith standard is even more vague than the reasonable person standard, since the jury would need to figure out what constitutes each defendant's best.
 [Professor says the problem with good faith standard is that you would just ask the defendant if they acted in good faith, and the defendant would say yes. But I don't think that's what the case says.]
Table of Contents 4

Holding

"Instead of saying that the liability for negligence should be co-extensive with the judgment of each individual, which would be as variable as the length of the foot of each individual, we ought rather to adhere to the rule which requires in all cases a regard to caution such as a man of ordinary prudence would observe."

Parrot v. Wells, Fargo & Co. (The Nitroglycerine Case) (1872)
Plaintiff owned buildings used by defendant. Defendant was transporting a crate full of nitroglycerine, which began to leak. As was standard procedure, defendant brought the box back to the buildings owned by plaintiff for inspection. The properties of nitroglycerine were not well-known at the time. Defendant opened the box with a mallet, which caused the crate to explode, killing people and damaging the buildings. Trial court held that defendant had no liability for damage to property other than as required by lease.
 Plaintiff claims that defendants were chargeable as a matter of law with knowledge of the contents of the crate, the properties of the material, and the proper ways to deal with it, and were consequently guilty of negligence in their handling of the crate of nitroglycerine.
 If the defendant-carrier were chargeable with notice, it would have to inspect the contents of all packages, which would be a great inconvenience. The law does not require this knowledge.
 Since there is no duty to known the contents, nor reason for the defendant to know the contents, the law does not presume knowledge. So there was no negligence in handling the crate just as any other package would be handled.
 Negligence: "the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do."
o Must be determined in all cases by reference to the situation and knowledge of the parties and all attendant circumstances.
o The measure of care against accident, which one must take to avoid responsibility, is that which a person of ordinary prudence and caution would use if his own interest were to be affected, and the whole risk were his own.
Knowledge of risks:
 Tort law could treat actor as possessing: (1) full knowledge of all the risks of his or her situation; (2) all of the knowledge a reasonable person would have had; or (3) only the knowledge the actor actually had.
McCarty v. Pheasant Run, Inc. (Posner, 7th Cir., 1987)
Plaintiff stays at hotel. Assailant enters by breaking chain on unlocked sliding glass door, beats and threatens plaintiff. Plaintiff claims that hotel should have done any of a number of things to prevent this, but jury rejects all theories of negligence.
 Hand formula: Negligence formula involves determining whether the burden of precaution is less than the magnitude of the accident, if it occurs, multiplied by the probability of occurrence.
Table of Contents

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