Torts!

by Zittrain, Weinstock

| ISBN: 9780262370073 | Copyright 2022

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A tort is a wrong that a court is prepared to recognize, usually in the form of ordering the transfer of money (“damages”) from the wrongdoer to the wronged. The tort system offers recourse for people aggrieved and harmed by the actions of others. By filing a lawsuit, private citizens can demand the attention of alleged wrongdoers to account for what they've done—and of a judge and jury to weigh the claims and set terms of compensation. This book, which can be used as a primary text for a first-year law school torts course, maps the progression of the law of torts through the language and example of public judicial decisions in a range of cases. Taken together, these cases show differing approaches to the problems of defining legal harm and applying those definitions to a messy world.

The cases range from alleged assault and battery by “The Schoolboy Kicker” (1891) to the liability of General Motors for “The Crumpling Toe Plate” (1993). Each case is an artifact of its time; students can compare the judges' societal perceptions and moral compasses to those of the current era.

This book is part of the Open Casebook series from Harvard Law School Library and the MIT Press.

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Contents (pg. v)
1 | Acknowledgments (pg. 1)
2 | Introduction (pg. 3)
3 | Assault and Battery I (pg. 7)
3.1 Righting (or Punishing) the Wrong (pg. 9)
3.1.1 Vosburg v. Putney: “The Schoolboy Kicker” (pg. 9)
3.1.2 Alcorn v. Mitchell: “The Angry Spitter” (pg. 11)
3.2 The Boundaries of Battery and Assault (pg. 13)
3.2.1 Picard v. Barry Pontiac-Buick, Inc.: “The Camera Toucher” (pg. 13)
3.2.2 Garratt v. Dailey: “The Chair-Pulling Five-Year-Old” (pg. 16)
3.3 The Restatement Approach to Assault and Battery (pg. 21)
3.3.1 The Restatement Approach to Assault (pg. 21)
3.3.2 The Restatement Approach to Battery (pg. 21)
4 | Assault and Battery II: Intent and Autonomy (pg. 23)
4.1 Latent Sensitivities and Reservations (pg. 25)
4.1.1 Wishnatsky v. Huey: “The Overly-Sensitive Intruder” (pg. 25)
4.1.2 Supplemental Materials for Wishnatsky v. Huey (pg. 29)
4.2 The Spectrum between Subjective and Objective (pg. 39)
4.2.1 Leichtman v. WLW Jacor Communications, Inc.: “The Smoke in the Face Case” (pg. 39)
4.2.2 Werth v. Taylor: “The Jehovah’s Witness Wrongful Life Case” (pg. 41)
4.3 Beyond Physical Contact or the Threat Thereof: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (pg. 45)
4.3.1 Womack v. Eldridge: “The Distressing Accusation of Molestation” (pg. 45)
5 | False Imprisonment: Taking Care of Others (pg. 49)
5.1 The Clashing of Wills (pg. 51)
5.1.1 Lopez v. Winchell’s Donut House: “The Accused Employee Who Freely Left” (pg. 51)
5.1.2 Parvi v. City of Kingston: “The Dropped Off Drunk” (pg. 54)
5.2 Defining “Confinement” (pg. 60)
5.2.1 Shen v. Leo A. Daly Co.: “The Confined-to-Taiwan Case” (pg. 60)
5.3 “Good” Imprisonments—Exceptions to False Imprisonment Liability (pg. 68)
5.3.1 Eilers v. Coy: “The Falsely Consenting Cultist” (pg. 68)
6 | Defenses: Overriding the Choices of Others (pg. 73)
6.1 Consent (pg. 75)
6.1.1 Hart v. Geysel: “The Fatal Prize Fight” (pg. 75)
6.1.2 Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals: “The No-Foul-but-Severe-Harm Case” (pg. 77)
6.2 Preservation of Bodily Integrity (pg. 81)
6.2.1 Courvoisier v. Raymond: “The Mistaken Self-Defender” (pg. 81)
6.3.2 Vincent v. Lake Erie Transportation Company: “The Boat-Slamming-Against-the-Dock-Case” (pg. 86)
6.3 Preservation of Property (pg. 84)
6.3.1 Ploof v. Putnam: “The Private Island in a Storm” (pg. 84)
6.4 Beyond the Common Law—Statutory Exceptions and Constitutional Protections (pg. 89)
6.4.1 Barbara A. v. John G.: “The Reprehensible Attorney” (pg. 89)
7 | Trespass to Chattels: The Limits of Self-Help (pg. 97)
7.1 Glidden v. Szybiak: “The Dog Ear Puller” (pg. 99)
7.2 Katko v. Briney: “The Spring-Gun Case” (pg. 101)
7.3 CompuServe v. Cyber Promotions: “The Damaging Spam Case” (pg. 107)
7.4 Intel Corp. v. Hamidi (Court of Appeal): “The Critical Emails Case” (pg. 113)
7.5 Intel Corp. v. Hamidi (Supreme Court): “The Critical Emails Case” (pg. 118)
8 | Negligence: The Standard of Reasonable Care (pg. 123)
8.1 The Murky Line between Intentional Torts and Negligence (pg. 125)
8.1.1 Topps v. Ferraro: “The Unintentional Punch in the Face” (pg. 125)
8.2 Understanding the Standard (pg. 131)
8.2.1 Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co. v. Krayenbuhl: “The Foot-Severing Turntable” (pg. 131)
8.2.2 United States v. Carroll Towing Co., Inc.: “The Learned Hand Formula Case” (pg. 135)
8.2.3 Adams v. Bullock: “The Swinging Wire Case” (pg. 137)
8.3 Judge or Jury: Who Should Decide? (pg. 139)
8.3.1 Pokora v. Wabash Railway Co.: “The Driver Who Failed to Step Out and Look Around” (pg. 139)
8.3.2 Akins v. Glen Falls: “The Blinding Foul Ball” (pg. 143)
8.4 The Restatement Approach to the Standard of Reasonable Care (pg. 147)
8.4.1 Restatement (Third) of Torts (pg. 147)
9 | Negligence: Adjusting the Standard? (pg. 149)
9.1 Challenges in Conveying the Standard (pg. 151)
9.1.1 Vaughan v. Menlove: “The Unreasonable Hay Stacker” (pg. 151)
9.1.2 Wood v. Groh: “The Gun from the Cabinet” (pg. 153)
9.1.3 Ellis v. D’Angelo: “The 4-Year-Old Bone Breaker” (pg. 156)
9.2 The Effect of Defendant’s Infirmities and Limitations on the Standard (pg. 160)
9.2.1 McCarty v. Pheasant Run: “The Chained, but Unlocked, Sliding Door” (pg. 160)
9.2.2 Bashi v. Wodarz: “The Driver Who Wigged Out” (pg. 164)
9.2.3 Miller v. Reilly: “The Defective Brakes Case” (pg. 167)
10 | Res Ipsa Loquitur (pg. 171)
10.1 “The Thing Speaks for Itself”—The Basic Rule of Res Ipsa Loquitur (pg. 173)
10.1.1 Byrne v. Boadle: “The Falling Flour Barrel” (pg. 173)
10.2 Questions about Control: The “Exclusive Control” Requirement (pg. 175)
10.2.1 Larson v. St. Francis Hotel: “The Falling Armchair” (pg. 175)
10.2.2 Connolly v. Nicollet Hotel: “The Chaotic Convention” (pg. 177)
10.3 The Problem of Multiple Defendants (pg. 185)
10.3.1 Ybarra v. Spangard: “The Unconscious, but Injured Patient” (pg. 185)
10.3.2 Fireman’s Fund American Insurance Cos. v. Knobbe: “The One-of-Four Smokers Case” (pg. 189)
11 | Negligence Per Se (pg. 193)
11.1 The Basic Doctrine (pg. 195)
11.1.1 Martin v. Herzog: “The Buggy without Lights” (pg. 195)
11.2 The Objective of the Statute (pg. 199)
11.2.1 Platz v. The City of Cohoes: “The Sunday Carriage Accident” (pg. 199)
11.2.2 Brown v. Shyne: “The Unlicensed, Paralyzing Chiropractor” (pg. 201)
11.2.3 Rushink v. Gerstheimer: “The Key in the Ignition Case” (pg. 204)
11.2.4 Robinson v. District of Columbia: “The Jaywalking Custom Case” (pg. 206)
11.2.5 Tedla v. Ellman: “Walking on the Other Side of the Highway” (pg. 208)
12 | Duty I: Introduction; Action vs. Inaction (pg. 213)
12.1 Action versus Inaction (pg. 215)
12.1.1 Moch Co. v. Rensselaer Water Co.: “The Failure to Supply Water During a Fire” (pg. 215)
12.1.2 Strauss v. Belle Realty Co.: “The Man Who Tripped Down the Stairs” (pg. 217)
12.1.3 Union Pacific Railway v. Cappier: “The Railroad That Ran Over a Man and Let Him Bleed to Death” (pg. 221)
12.2 Special Relationships and Other Exceptions (pg. 225)
12.2.1 Harper v. Herman: “The Boat Owner Who Failed to Warn” (pg. 225)
12.2.2 Farwell v. Keaton: “The Fatal Pickup Attempt” (pg. 228)
12.2.3 Randi W. v. Muroc Joint Unified School District: “The Alleged Sexual Predator’s Recommender (pg. 232)
13 | Duty II: Duty to Control Others (pg. 239)
13.1 Duty Arising from and Limited by Special Relationships (pg. 241)
13.1.1 Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California: “The Psychiatrist’s Failure to Warn the Murder Victim” (pg. 241)
13.1.2 Broadbent v. Broadbent: “The Phone Call and the Drowned Child” (pg. 250)
13.1.3 Hawkins v. Pizzaro: “The Failure to Correctly Report Hepatitis C Test Results” (pg. 256)
13.1.4 Einhorn v. Seeley: “The Locksmith’s Failure to Properly Install a Lock” (pg. 258)
13.1.5 Boyd v. Racine Currency Exchange: “The Non-compliant Bank Teller and the Murdered Hostage” (pg. 261)
13.2 Controlling the Intoxicated (pg. 264)
13.2.1 Kelly v. Gwinnell: “The Don’t Let Friends Drinks and Drive Case” (pg. 264)
13.2.2 Charles v. Seigfried: “The Tragic Fate of the Minor Guest” (pg. 267)
14 | Duty III: Governmental Liability (pg. 271)
14.1 Riss v. City of New York: “The Lye in the Face Case” (pg. 273)
14.2 Schuster v. City of New York: “The Death of the Police Informant” (pg. 277)
14.3 Weiner v. Metropolitan Transit Authority: “The Unmanned Train Station” (pg. 280)
14.4 Garcia v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County: “The Fatally Wrong Parole Officer” (pg. 282)
14.5 Florence v. Goldberg: “The Police-Manned Crosswalk” (pg. 287)
14.6 Howse v. Hodous: “The Undue Arrest and Qualified Immunity Case” (pg. 291)
15 | Duty IV: Emotional and Economic Harm (pg. 299)
15.1 Emotional Harm (pg. 302)
15.1.1 Falzone v. Busch: “The Almost Automobile Accident” (pg. 302)
15.1.2 Portee v. Jaffee: “The Child Dying in the Elevator” (pg. 306)
15.1.3 Pizarro v. 421 Port Associates: “The Decapitating Elevator” (pg. 310)
15.1.4 Gammon v. Osteopathic Hospital of Maine: “The Severed Leg in the Bodybag” (pg. 311)
15.2 Economic Harm (pg. 315)
15.2.1 People Express Airlines, Inc. v. Consolidated Rail Corp.: “The Evacuated Airport” (pg. 315)
15.2.2 Koch v. Consolidated Edison Co.: “The New York Blackout Case” (pg. 320)
16 | Causation (pg. 325)
16.1 Theories of Causation (pg. 327)
16.1.1 Howard v. Wal-mart Stores, Inc.: “The ‘More-Likely-Than-Not’ Standard for Causation” (pg. 327)
16.1.2 Stubbs v. City of Rochester: “The Sewage in the Drinking Water Case” (pg. 330)
16.1.3 Anderson v. Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway Co.: “The Multiple Fires Case” (pg. 335)
16.1.4 Brown v. Wal-mart: “The Phantom Tortfeasor” (pg. 338)
16.2 Joint and Several Liability (pg. 343)
16.2.1 Summers v. Tice: “The Simultaneously Negligent Shooters” (pg. 343)
16.2.2 Garcia v. Joseph Vince Co.: “Two Manufacturers, One Sabre” (pg. 346)
16.2.3 Ravo v. Rogatnick: “The Indivisible Brain Damage” (pg. 349)
17 | Proximate Cause (pg. 353)
17.1 In re Polemis: “The Plank That Exploded a Ship” (pg. 355)
17.2 Wagner v. International Railway Co.: “The Injured, Would-Be-Rescuer” (pg. 357)
17.3 Palsgraf v. Long Island Railway Co.: “The Fireworks on the Train Platform” (pg. 360)
17.4 Benn v. Thomas: “The Time-Delayed Heart Attack” (pg. 369)
17.5 Steinhauser v. Hertz Corp.: “The Sudden Schizophrenia Case” (pg. 373)
17.6 Gibson v. Garcia: “The Rotten Telephone Pole and the Car” (pg. 376)
17.7 Darby v. National Trust: “The Rat Urine Case” (pg. 380)
18 | Vicarious Liability (pg. 385)
18.1 Fundamentals of Vicarious Liability (pg. 387)
18.1.1 Miller v. Reiman-Wuerth Co.: “The Bank Errand Case” (pg. 387)
18.1.2 Christensen v. Swensen: “The Lunch Break Case” (pg. 392)
18.2 Possible Exceptions to Vicarious Liability (pg. 396)
18.2.1 Bussard v. Minimed, Inc.: “The Bug Bomb Case” (pg. 396)
18.2.2 Kuehn v. Inter-City Freight: “The Road Rage Case” (pg. 400)
18.2.3 Sage Club v. Hunt: “The Violent Bartender” (pg. 402)
18.2.4 Roessler v. Novak: “The ‘Independent’ Radiology Department” (pg. 405)
19 | Strict Liability (pg. 411)
19.1 Guille v. Swan: “The Wandering Aeronaut” (pg. 413)
19.2 Sullivan v. Dunham: “The Exploding Tree Case” (pg. 416)
19.3 Hammontree v. Jenner: “Strict Liability While Driving?” (pg. 420)
19.4 Crosby v. Cox Aircraft Co.: “The Airplane That Ran Out of Fuel” (pg. 423)
19.5 Torchia v. Fisher: “The Stolen Airplane Case” (pg. 429)
19.6 Franken v. City of Sioux Center: “The ‘Pet’ Tiger Case” (pg. 432)
20 | Defenses I: Contributory and Comparative Fault (pg. 437)
20.1 Davies v. Mann: “The Last Clear Chance and the Donkey” (pg. 439)
20.2 Derheim v. N. Fiorito, Co. Inc.: “The Non-Seat-Belt-Wearing Plaintiff” (pg. 441)
20.3 Fritts v. McKinne: “The Doctor Who Cried Drunk Driver” (pg. 449)
20.4 Veazey v. Elmwood Plantation Associates, Inc.: “The Totally-at-Fault Apartment Complex Manager” (pg. 453)
20.5 Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority v. Johnson: “The Suicide in the Subway Station” (pg. 456)
21 | Defenses II: Assumption of Risk (pg. 463)
21.1 Knight v. Jewett: “The Not-So-Friendly Touch Football Game” (pg. 465)
21.2 Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co.: “The Dangerous Carnival Ride” (pg. 469)
21.3 Cohen v. McIntyre: “The Thrice Bitten Veterinarian” (pg. 471)
21.4 Lowe v. California League of Professional Baseball: “The Tremor’s Tail Case” (pg. 475)
21.5 Shorter v. Drury: “The Jehovah’s Witness and the Blood Transfusion Waiver” (pg. 477)
22 | Products Liability I: Manufacturing Defects (pg. 485)
22.1 Introduction to Products Liability (pg. 487)
22.1.1 MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co.: “The Broken Wooden Wheel Case” (pg. 487)
22.1.2 Ryan v. Progressive Grocery Stores, Inc.: “The Pin in the Bread Case” (pg. 490)
22.1.3 Escola v. Coca Cola Bottling Company of Fresno: “The Exploding Coke Bottle Case” (pg. 493)
22.2 Manufacturing Defects (pg. 498)
22.2.1 Keen v. Dominick’s Finer Foods, Inc.: “The Defective Shopping Cart” (pg. 498)
22.3 Manufacturing Defects versus Design Defects (pg. 502)
22.3.1 Rix v. General Motors Corp.: “The Truck That Couldn’t Brake” (pg. 502)
22.4 Manufacturing Defects versus Failures to Warn (pg. 507)
22.4.1 Emery v. Federated Foods, Inc.: “The Toddlers Shouldn’t Eat Marshmallows Case” (pg. 507)
22.5 The Restatement Approach to Products Liability (pg. 512)
22.5.1 Restatement Approach to Products Liability (pg. 512)
23 | Products Liability II: Design Defect and Warning (pg. 515)
23.1 Design Defect and Warning (pg. 517)
23.1.1 Soule v. General Motors Corp.: “The Crumpling Toe Plate” (pg. 517)
23.1.2 Camacho v. Honda Motor Co.: “The Motorcycle without Crash Bars” (pg. 523)
23.1.3 Linegar v. Armour of America, Inc.: “The Incomplete Bulletproof Vest” (pg. 530)
23.1.4 Hood v. Ryobi America Corp.: “The Saw with Removed Bladeguards” (pg. 534)
23.1.5 Medina v. Louisville Ladder, Inc.: “The Monolinguial Installation Instructions” (pg. 539)
23.2 Affirmative Defenses to Products Liability (pg. 543)
23.2.1 Restatement Approach to Affirmative Defenses (pg. 543)
24 | Damages (pg. 545)
24.1 Massachusetts General Laws—Chapter 228, Section 1 (pg. 547)
24.2 Massachusetts General Laws—Part III, Title II—Chapter 229, Section 2: Wrongful death; damages (pg. 548)
24.3 A Restatement Approach to Damages (pg. 550)
24.3.1 Restatement of the Law, Second, Torts § 925 Actions for Causing Death (pg. 550)
24.3.2 Restatement of the Law, Second, Torts § 926 (pg. 551)
24.4 Calculating Damages (pg. 553)
24.4.1 McDougald v. Garber: “The Comatose Sufferer” (pg. 553)
24.4.2 Seffert v. Los Angeles Transit Lines: “Suffering by Bus” (pg. 560)
24.4.3 Greyhound Lines, Inc. v. Sutton: “The Worth of a Child Case” (pg. 567)
Index of Cases (pg. 573)

Jonathan L. Zittrain

Jonathan L. Zittrain is George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is also Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Director of the Harvard Law School Library, and Cofounder and Director of Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

Jordi Weinstock

Jordi Weinstock is a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.

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