Torts

Professor Ari Ezra Waldman

New York Law School

Welcome to law school! And welcome to the study of torts! It's a privilege to teach your first doctrinal class at New York Law School.

Those of you who have heard the word "tort" before may have heard it in one of the following contexts: If you're a political junkie, you may have come across the phrase "tort reform"; if you watch television commercials on local TV, you may have seen "mass tort": lawyers asking you to call them if you or someone you love has mesothelioma from unsafe working conditions; or, if you like dessert, you may have once (or twice) eaten a "torte." Only the first two are somewhat relevant to this class. The last one is just delicious.

Torts are legal wrongs between private parties: two persons, a person and a corporation, and so on. Examples of actions that could lead to a tort lawsuit are punching someone in the jaw, causing someone to feel intense humiliation, and behaving negligently toward the safety of others. The law of torts does not generally involve the government or the police (it can, though), and it never involves state prosecutors or imprisonment (that's criminal law). Nor does it involve written agreements between two parties (that's contract law). Tort law is the background law of everyday life. Torts are cases of alleged wrongdoing in which one private person sues another for damages, i.e., money. It is the bread and butter of the law and it is the arsenal for going after quack physicians, Big Tobacco, and those that invade our privacy. Tort lawyers are, in many ways, social justice warriors.

So, I am here to teach you the law of torts, yes. Tort law, after all, is on the Bar exam. But I am also here to teach you how to study and learn the law, how to be a law student, and how to think like a lawyer. Through our study of torts, we will learn many lawyering skills, including, but not limited to, how to read a case, identity the facts, parse the relevant facts, note the parties' arguments and develop our own, find the court's holding (or final decision), and evaluate, manipulate, and marshal that holding for the purposes of advocacy. This class will set you up to succeed in every other class in law school.

Get excited!

We meet (almost) every Monday and Wednesday. On Mondays, we will meet from 11:00-12:40. On Wednesdays, we will meet from 11:00-12:20. We will always meet in W120. Because of the shortened Wednesdays, we will be adding a class at some point. You will have plenty of advance notice. Be present. Be on time. Be engaged. Have fun!

CONTACT: My email address is ari.waldman@nyls.edu. My office hours are TBD. You can make an appointment during office hours by emailing my assistant, Tamara Garland.

Course Goals

By the end of this semester, you should ...

  1. learn how to read a case, identify relevant facts, holdings, and decision rationales,
  2. understand the different doctrines of tort liability, including intentional torts, negligence, strict liability, and product liability,
  3. apply current law to vanguard legal and technological issues, including those associated with privacy and cyberharassment,
  4. develop a variety of lawyering skills, including case analysis, legal writing, advocacy, negotiation, and dispute resolution, through in-class, practice-based activities,
  5. understand the impact of implicit biases tort law, and
  6. have fun!

Reading

Participation

Rules & Regs

Required Reading

1. Franklin, Rabin, Green, & Geistfeld Tort Law and Alternatives (10th Edition).

2. Any supplemental materials I post to this website.

As the semester unfolds, I will supplement, subtract, revise the readings based on our interests, the news, and our pace. I appreciate the flexibility and I hope you will too.

Please note that I have provided questions to guide your reading. You will find them on the next page. These are not assignments that you have to hand in; no one will see your answers save you, assuming you write them down. However, they may help focus your reading on the topics and skills we will discuss in class. You should not restrict yourself to answering these questions, but you may use them as guides.


Optional Reading

Some law students like to supplement their study of torts with hornbooks and other texts that summarize the doctrines we discuss in class. I will never require you to read these, and I have some misgivings about them. One good quality texts is:

Glannon, The Law of Torts (4th Ed.).

Participation is essential for success in this class and in law school generally. I will rarely, if ever, just lecture to you. Class is a discussion among all members of our community, and you should come to class prepared to participate. In the event that there are either an insufficient number or an insufficient variety of volunteers, I will call on you at random. You needn't worry about being called on if you're prepared for class.


Being prepared for class means the following:

1. You did the reading ... of course. Sometimes, you read it more than once.

2. You reflected on the readings through the questions in the text.

3. You looked up any terms you didn't understand.

4. You came to class with your readings annotated and your notes available.

Attendance

Attendance is mandatory, per New York Law School's attendance policy. You are permitted to have a certain number of unexcused absences. Excessive absences can affect your grade. Please consult the NYLS Attendance Policy if you have any questions.


Professionalism

We will maintain a courteous and professional learning environment. Professionalism means many things. For example, it means answering questions using appropriate tone and language. It means handing in assignments that reflect the same. Most importantly, it means treating everyone with respect. We are all in this together.


Laptops and Cellphones

Professionalism also means not distracting your fellow students. I do allow laptops in class, despite some misgivings. If that's how you feel you learn better, feel free. But do not use your laptop for anything other than taking notes. Trust me, I will know. Turn off your cell phone before class and do not use any tech during class.


Recording Devices

Recording devices are not permitted. If you have reason to have class videotaped, using classroom tech, please contact Academic Affairs. The following NYLS policy applies: "Under extraordinary circumstances (such as hospitalizations or other extended excused absences) and only with the permission of the Office of Academic Affairs, recording of classes may be arranged through the Office of Academic Affairs."

"Mid"term

Your "mid"term will be held on Friday, September 14, at 10am in Room TBD. The Registrar will handle all logistics. More on this in class. You can find a sample from from 2015 and 2017 on the Library exam archive.