Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tort Law Poem

In an old notebook, I came across a Dr.-Seuss-style poem that I wrote in my first-year Torts class with Jon Hanson, in the spring of 1998. Law students might enjoy this:
A very, very learned man
Went by the name of Mr. Hand.
A famous judge, he was the sort
Who redefined the law of tort.

The T.J. Hooper was the case,
Where Hand was called upon to face,
A tug that failed to stay afloat.
It even sank another boat.

A sudden storm had struck. Oh no!
The tugboat had no radio.
If it had heard the storm report,
It might have sailed back into port.

But as it was, the boats were lost.
(An example of a true sunk cost.)

The tug was negligent, said Hand.
It should have made it back to land.
A radio would have saved the day.
The tug owner should have to pay.

Defer to custom? No sirree.
The PL here was more than B.
As any idiot would find,
The industry had lagged behind.

And so the story shows, you see,
The potential liability
Resulting when you do not lug
A radio aboard your tug.
UPDATE: The "T.J. Hooper" was a famous case in tort law. Here's an article about the case by Richard Epstein. For the benefit of non-lawyers, here's what the "PL was more than B" line means: the defendant should be held liable if the Burden (B) of preventing a loss is less than the Probability of the Loss (PL). So if you're taking an action with a 10% chance of causing a $100 loss, and it costs you less than $10 to eliminate the risk -- i.e., if PL > B -- then you should have eliminated the risk. But if B > PL, then you shouldn't have to bear that burden.

3 Comments:

Blogger Drake said...

Good work. You should do a book of these for each substantive area. Call it the "Case Outlines in Rhymes" series. Or maybe "There's a Docket in my Pocket."

1:37 PM  
Blogger Jim O'Sullivan said...

Which brings to mind this classic, also pennned by a first year law student:

Lets fill the cups for Baron Turton,

who, though the law was clear and certain,

would rather help a little foetus

than round out Charlie Foerne's dull treatise.

Background here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=toEXPHneVggC&pg=PA132&lpg=PA132&dq=foetus+treatise+%22clear+and+certain%22&source=web&ots=U8eR0EdJZb&sig=88Hn7Mp2ZzNYbDa_nanfydd5Bk0

7:41 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I do not love thee, Justice Hand...

6:37 PM  

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