Friday, May 27, 2005

First Torts Assignment

The professor was kind enough to email us the first Torts assignment. Class doesn't start until next week, so that's a nice heads up.

Of course, being enthusiastic about resuming classes, I immediately read the first assignment. Vosburg v. Putney, a scintillating case from 1891. I suddenly see my mom's point, that she so delicately made at dim sum when my parents were in New York - "Common law sucks!" Indeed, so far, the few cases that have been mentioned in the textbook are all stupid decisions. I just don't think of things that way.

So Vosburg v. Putney is about a kid who gets kicked in the leg (gently) by a fellow classmate in school. He ends up getting a horrible infection and losing the use of his leg. Now, he had a previous injury to that leg that easily could have caused the damage that the subsequent kick merely aggravated. Also, the kid who kicked him clearly didn't mean for him to lose the use of his leg. Nevertheless, all these different courts find that he has to pay the injured kid damages.

Next case I read that stood out - Mohr v. Williams. This is about a woman who has to have surgery on her ear. The doctor discovers while she's under anaesthetic that her right ear (which he is supposed to operate on) is much less damaged than her left ear - so he operates on her left ear, successfully. She claims that this surgery caused serious loss of hearing and sues the doctor. She wins. Now, needless to say, had he not operated on that ear, she would have probably lost all of her hearing and may have suffered considerably more damage since it was in a horrible shape. But no, the doctor operated on her other ear without her consent, so he has to pay.

I can see the long-term importance of these decisions - otherwise doctors could amputate the wrong leg and you wouldn't have a lot of recourse - but I feel really bad for the defendants in these cases.

I'm not going to make snap judgements, but I really don't much like torts so far. It had better get more exciting and start throwing in references to Russian energy, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the world politics or I'll be pretty pissy this semester.

3 Comments:

Blogger Sydney said...

You know, you're not making me look forward to this class...at all. This isn't looking so good...

But on a somewhat more serious note, I worked at a law firm which specialized in medical and legal malpractice claims. What I frequently found was that cases like these weren’t really the norm, and when they did come around, we found ways to get rid of them. I think that the everyday tort claims that one would face as an attorney are much more reasonable. Granted, this is just one law firm but I think its safe to say that this may be more of the norm.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look the American system is based on the idea of structure - meaning that we are willing to let an individual defendant/plaintiff get hosed (even when the question is of Constitutional Rights) if the precedent is right.

The two cases - are not about the individual set of facts (those are nice, but lets face it - you'll never actually get them). They are about an idea - which is if you "intend" to touch someone (and they do not explicitly want to be touched) and you accidently do damage you're liable. And when they do give you consnet - you have to stay within it.

Yeah, the individual defendants here get hosed - but wait until you get the statutory rape case - then you'll really blow a gasket.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Jaron aka Bananatree said...

I think I would be pretty upset if some cut up my ear without asking me, however I think I'd be able to be rational, and realize the doctor had my best intentions in mind, and only sued him midly :P

11:22 PM  

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