Torts (Fall 2020)

Welcome to torts, the law of private wrongs!

This syllabus will provide an overview of the expectations for the course and the reading assignments.

Overview

Tort law defines the circumstances in which one is liable for injuries suffered by another, in situations not involving voluntarily assumed obligations. This body of law addresses competing concerns about what kinds of harms deserve compensation, how to most fairly and efficiently distribute losses from accidents, and under what conditions different rules should apply. It also requires examination of the difference roles of judge and jury in a the American system of common law. This course will thoroughly examine negligence law, including its development, current doctrine, and practical applications, while offering an overview of intentional torts, strict liability, and product liability.

Course Objectives

At the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Understand the basic tort doctrines and the contexts in which they apply
  • Work through a legal claim formally, including each step in a prima facie case and defenses, applying existing rules to new fact patterns
  • Discuss the various theoretical frameworks underlying tort law and critically evaluate existing legal rules and possible alternatives
  • Understand the roles of judge and jury and the ways in which substantive tort law relies on the differences
  • Appreciate the common law method and the ways that method differs from other types of lawmaking

Class Meetings, Review Session, Final Exam

We will meet Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 3:30–4:45 PM, on Zoom (link on MyLaw page).

The review session for this course is scheduled for Friday, December 11, 10:15–11:30AM. The final exam will be on Thursday, December 17. You will have a 24 hour period to complete what I expect will be a 4-hour exam. (This is what I think is most likely right now, but the specific details are subject to change with plenty of notice).

Materials

The casebook for this course will be Goldberg, Sebok & Zipursky, Tort Law: Responsibilities and Redress (4th ed.).

Feel free to use other study aids you find helpful, but remember that you won’t be evaluated on those other materials. Tort law is a sprawling subject, we won’t be covering everything, and you can learn everything you need to know for this course by completing the assignments and attending class. I’ve heard good things about Kenneth Abraham’s The Forms and Functions of Tort Law—which you can access online (for free!) through the UCLA Law Library—but, again, this is not required, and not even necessarily recommended.

Attendance

Regular attendance is required for all classes at UCLA Law. Pursuant to our academic standards, students who do not regularly attend class may, at my discretion, be prohibited from sitting for the final exam, resulting in a grade of “F” or being dropped from the class. Students for whom this may be an issue will receive a written warning before this final action, and may need to attend all remaining classes after the written warning is given. If you must miss a class because of a medical need, or serious familial, religious, or professional obligation, please email me at least 2 hours before class to request an excused absence. Class will be recorded and the recordings will be available for review, but attendance will be taken and watching the recording is not a substitute for attending class sessions.

Grading

Your grade will be based on your performance on the final exam and, to a limited extent, your class participation. Please try not to spend the entire semester worrying about the exam. We’ll talk about it when the time comes.

Class Participation

I expect you to come prepared to participate in class discussion. In particular, I will expect that you have carefully read the assigned material prior to class and are prepared to respond to questions and/or offer comments to facilitate class discussion.

Please note that you will be assessed on the quality, not the quantity, of your participation. Quality does not mean giving the “correct” answer—in torts there are often several valid answers to questions. The key is to be prepared and to make your best effort at reasoning through an issue, putting your thoughts and arguments into words. Your responses will be important and valuable building blocks for our discussion, even if they might occasionally feel clumsy in the moment. The most important thing is to remember that you are in this together, and that this is a collaborative process. You are expected to support each other as colleagues in a joint learning community. Each class member is entitled to your respect, and to a presumption that their views are being offered in good faith—even if they are views with which you sharply disagree.

I have divided the class into three randomly assigned panels, posted in the OneDrive and on MyLaw. One of those three groups will be on call each class. When your group is on call, I may ask you a question, even if your hand is not raised. This does not mean that only people in the on-call group can speak; I encourage you to raise your hand any time you have relevant comments and questions. I also expect all students to prepare, even when you are not on call. If, for whatever reason, you feel that you cannot answer questions on a given day, you may—up to three times in the semester—ask me ahead of time not to call on you. If you have not asked ahead of time, and I do call on you, you may request help from “co-counsel” at any time, but I ask that you first give the question your sincere effort. If you are struggling to answer, know that it may well be because my question was poorly formed, so please feel free to ask for clarification.

In general, you are routinely present, engaged, and respectful of your colleagues, I will note that, and it may positively affect your final grade. Any poor assessment regarding your participation will be the result of protracted absence from class, repeated refusal to participate in class, disrespectful comments, or sustained evidence of lack of preparation and engagement. The effect on your grade in either direction will be no more than a single letter grade step (e.g., B+ to A- or vice versa). Because you are assessed on quality, not quantity, I also ask that you also be cognizant of your speaking time. If you find that you are speaking often, please consider making space for others in the room who speak less frequently to have their turn.

Office Hours

My office hours will be Wednesday, 12:15–1:30PM in the Zoom classroom. I encourage you to come by. Feel free to come in groups with questions or sit in on a conversation already in progress. If you cannot make that time or want to have a private conversation, please email me to schedule another time. My office hours are subject to change if required.

Video

Discussion, participation, and presence are essential to all law school classes. I ask that each of you please turn on your video whenever possible so we can be as fully engaged as possible while in a remote setting. If you must turn your video off for personal reasons or for bandwidth reasons, please let me know in advance where possible, and please limit it to be the exception rather than the rule. Please note that I am requesting camera usage to aid classroom discussion and presence, not as a way to introduce surveillance into the class; if you have a momentary need to turn off your camera for whatever reason, please do so at your own discretion. If the video is off for an extended period and you do not tell me ahead of time, I may come check on you, not because you’re in trouble, but because I will take that as a sign that something is wrong and I will want to see that you’re ok.

Privacy

Per University policy, UCLA Student Conduct Code 102.28 says that expectations of privacy apply, and it specifically prohibits recording without the consent of all recorded parties and prohibits taking photographs where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. In remote teaching, advising, chatting, and other engagement in course activities remotely there is a reasonable expectation that photographing, screen capture, or other copying methods or recordings will not occur without express permission from all participants. A violation subjects a student to the disciplinary process. Do not record your courses, do not take screen shots of your classes, professors, or classmates, and do not release, post, email, text, or otherwise share or sell course materials to others.

Accommodations

UCLA Law strives to provide accommodations in a way that supports students with disabilities while maintaining their anonymity and the fundamental nature of our law program. As such, students needing academic accommodations should not contact their professors directly, but contact Carmina Ocampo, Director of Student Life or the UCLA Center for Accessible Education (CAE) When possible, students should start this process within the first two weeks of the semester, as reasonable notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. 

Resources for Health and Wellness

Students needing assistance with medical or mental health issues, substance abuse, anxiety or depression or other health-related matters should contact the Office for Student Affairs, UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 310-825-0768 (Courtney Walters is the counselor regularly assigned to the law school) or the Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center at 310-825-4073.

Structure of the Course

  • Common Law Negligence
    • Duty
    • Breach
    • Causation
      • Review Exercise I
    • Defenses
    • Damages
  • Strict Liability
  • Products Liability
    • Review Execrise II
  • Intentional Torts

Assignments

Review Exercises

You will have two writing assignments as indicated on “Review Exercise” days, in lieu of reading. The first will be after the negligence prima facie case, and the second after we discuss products liability—about 1/2 and 3/4 of the way through the course respectively. On these days, I will give you an issue-spotter problem or set of problems to analyze, and you will write out answers at home.

The responses will not be part of your final grade, except that you must turn them in before class on the due date or you will lose a single-step letter grade for the final grade. After you turn them in, we will then go over them in class as indicated on the assignments, and over the next week or two, I will provide feedback on your answers. When the time comes, please put them in the appropriate folder in the MyLaw Drop Box on as a Word document titled either “Review Exercise 1.docx” or “Review Exercise 2.docx” respectively. Do not include your name; the Drop Box takes care of that. Doing this correctively ensures that I will be able to give you credit for having turned it in.

These exercises serve as practice for the exam, so you shore up any substantive misunderstandings or ways in which you do not yet successfully put your knowledge on paper. It is therefore to your benefit to take them seriously.

Reading Assignments:

Reading assignments are below. Some classes move faster or slower than others, so the list begins with the first two weeks, and reading assignments will be updated here as needed to match our pace. Most of the readings will be from the casebook (GSZ); others will be posted in the course OneDrive, along with any other handouts. Where relevant, I will indicate which notes are most important to focus on as you read. Please note, though, that you are responsible for all of the material in the assigned readings­—including all opinions, dissents, concurrences, and casebook notes—and may be tested on any of it, even if it is not discussed in class.

I have scanned the first two weeks of assignments and posted them in the OneDrive to give you time to buy the book. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the library is closed and there is no casebook reserve, a fact that surely will impact some of you, and which arose too late to change the structure of the course. I originally included the citations for the main cases we will read in the chart below, but I took them out for two reasons: 1) They not be useful. The cases are edited down significantly in the book, to focus on the important points for the course, and the book includes both squib cases and notes after each case that are part of the assigned reading. I’m not sure there’s a way around buying the book or borrowing from a friend. 2) Including them made it impossible to include the day’s panels in the chart, and that’s important and useful information.

DateAssignment
(page #s from GSZ)
Focus Notes

* = Extra Important
TopicOn Call
8/243–1812–16: nn. 2, 3, 5Introduction to Torts1
8/2647–6855–60: nn. 1– 3;
65–68: nn. 2, 5, 7, 8
Introduction to Duty2
8/2768–74; Intro from Joy Milligan, Pluralism in Americann. 2, 4, 5, 7Duty of Reasonable Care3
8/3174–89, Restatement 2d § 314A (pdf)nn. 5–9Qualified Duties: Special Relationships1
9/290–101, 115–12595–100: nn. 1, 3–7;
122–125: nn. 3, 5, 7, 8
Qualified Duties: Premises Liability2
9/3125–140; UC Regents v. Rosen and questionsnn. 2, 5, 7, 10, 11Qualified Duties: Duty to Protect from Third Party Harm3
9/7LABOR DAYNO CLASS
9/9143–44; 154–65 (skip n.3)nn. 1, 2, 4, 8, 11Breach and the Meanings of Negligence1
9/10165–178; Leslie Bender, A Lawyer’s Primer on Feminist Theory and Tort, pp. 20–25nn. 1*, 3, 4, 7 The Reasonable Person2
9/14no new readingFinish the Reasonable Person3
9/16178–89; 196–200 (skip nn. 11 & 12)nn. 2, 3, 6, 7, 8Custom/Professional Standard1
9/17201–215nn. 4, 5, 7Cost-Benefit Balancing2
9/21215–225nn. 1, 2, 5, 6Res Ipsa Loquitur3
9/23383–399, Restatement 2d §§ 286 & 288A (pdf)nn. 1, 4, 5, 6, 10Negligence Per Se1
9/24229–51nn. 1, 2, 4But For Cause2
9/28252–271, 280–88 258–60: nn. 1, 3, 4
261–263: nn. 1, 3
280–88: nn. 1, 4, 5, 8
Loss of a chance; Multiple Causes3
9/30288–293nn. 1, 3, 4, 6Tortfeasor Identification1
10/1309–330314–18: nn. 1, 3*;
326–330: nn. 2, 3, 5*
Proximate Cause2
10/5CLASS CANCELED; MAKEUP 10/9NO CLASS