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Top Torts from Schubert 






Malicious Prosecution

False Imprisionment


Interference with Contract Relations

Infliction of Mental Distress

Invasion of Privacy




    Product liability



Read each of the following hypothetical situations and imagine you are representing each of the players involved. What possible torts were committed against each one?  You must limit yourselves to torts which are reasonable and possible.  Be prepared to explain the logic behind the claim, and try to also think of possible defenses against it.


Hypothetical One: Jorge is a Mexican-American US citizen who has a liscenced, one-man gardening and landscaping business.  One of his contracts is for mowing the lawn and trimming the bushes of a large apartment building with extensive grounds.  Leroy, one of the residents of the building, keeps a pit bull which, like its owner, has an aversion to Mexicans. Every time Jorge shows up to work on the grounds, the dog growls and barks at him.  When the dog is running loose, which is frequently, it stands in his path and snaps at him, making it difficult or impossible for him to do his work.


After several months, Jorge decides to tranquilize the dog and puts several of his girlfriend's prescription sleeping pills in a Polish sausage and throws it to the dog.  Unfortunately, three pills constitute a lethal dose for a 70 lb. dog.


Leroy is disconsolate and becomes depressed.  In retaliation, he calls the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and reports that there is an illegal alien doing the yard work at his apartment complex.  The ICE stage a raid, and when Jorge sees himself surrounded by a dozen armed ICE agents, he panics and flees. He is quickly chased and captured, although he sustains a back injury while being tackled. In the aftermath of the raid, the agents discover Jorge is a US citizen and release him several hours later.  However, they discover that several other employees of the apartment complex are illegal and so detain them.  The company which runs the complex, upset with the effect of the incident on their residents, terminate Jorge’s contract.


Two: Chastity is a third-year law student who is working her way through school as an exotic dancer. For several nights in a row she was bothered by a customer who repeatedly made lewd suggestions while she was dancing and tried to speak to her at the end of her shifts. Finally, one night while she was dancing he climbed up on the bar/stage, grabbed her breast, and pushed her to the floor. 


Enraged, Chastity collected the patron’s car keys from the doorman (patrons were required to relinquish their car keys until passing a sobriety test upon leaving), entered his car without permission, and used documents in the glove compartment to ascertain his home address and phone number. She immediately used her cell phone to call the patron’s wife, and inform her that her husband was assaulting women at a strip club.


The patron, after suffering his wife’s scorn, returned to the club the next night and began loudly proclaiming that Chastity was engaged in a sexual relationship with another female dancer, which was a rumor he had heard on previous visits to the club. He loudly claimed to be an eyewitness to the affair until ejected from the club. It appeared these rumors boosted Chastity’s popularity as a dancer, as club attendance and tips increased markedly in the following weeks.



Three: Magda was Mrs. Frothington’s maid, and came in twice a week to clean the house, wash the clothes, and water the plants. Since Mrs. Frothington was spending the summer in Europe, she gave the keys to her house to Magda so that she could do the housekeeping. 


Magda, knowing that her employer would be gone for 8 weeks, decided to move into the house, using all of the facilities, sunbathing in the nude beside the swimming pool, and even using Mrs. Fronthington’s Mercedes. Prescott, the next-door neighbor’s 13-year-old son, discovered he could see over the 2-meter fence around the pool, and began watching Magda sunbathing. Soon, he also began photographing her and posting the pictures on his blog. 


Eventually, Prescott wanted a closer look, so he climbed a tree which was on the border between his house and Mrs. Frothington’s. During his observation, however, he became so engrossed that he fell out of the tree into an open pit Mrs. Frothington had had dug for a barbeque pit she was having installed, the completion of which was postponed until after her return.


Four: Phil and Pat were engaged to be married, and the wedding date was set for the following month. They had already contracted with the caterers, the band, the wedding hall, and have signed a prenuptial agreement. However, three weeks before the wedding Pat gets an anonymous phone call informing her that Phil has had two previous marriages and in addition has done time in a state prison for armed robbery, none of which he had told her. 


Pat was understandably distraught, and immediately told Phil she couldn’t marry him. A verbal argument ensued which escalated when Phil slapped Pat in the face and threatened to “knock her block off” unless she reconsidered. He then locked her in a bedroom in his apartment until she had time, according to Phil, to “cool down and forgive him.” 


Pat escaped from the locked room through a window and took refuge in her parents house.  The next day she took out a prominent ad in the local newspaper with a photo of Phil, stating textually that “This man is an ex-con, liar, bigamist, abuser and drug-addict.” She also asked the court for a TRO against him.



Bonus: A New York truck driver who police believe was driving drunk struck and killed a Hamilton Township, N.J., man yesterday as he took a sobriety test after being stopped on Route 130 in Bordentown Township, police said.


    When police stopped Shane Gildersleeve of Valatie, N.Y., less than a mile away, they found open containers of alcohol in the vehicle and charged him with driving under the influence, according to prosecutors.


    An officer had stopped William F. Grieb, 34, of Hamilton Township, Mercer County, on Route 130 just after 2 a.m. on suspicion of drunken driving, according to Burlington County Prosecutor Robert Bernardi.


    As the officer was giving Grieb a sobriety test at the side of the road, a tractor-trailer driven by Gildersleeve crashed into the police car, which then struck Grieb's vehicle, Bernardi said.


    The officer was able to get out of the way but was unable to move Grieb, who died instantly, Bernardi said.


Clearly, alcohol was a major cause of this accident, but is it relevant whose drinking caused the car which was ultimately hit to be stopped in the first place? When the police officer detained the motorist, once he was no longer free to leave the scene, was he (or his estate) still liable? Was he contributorily negligent or was the stop an intervening act [a superseding cause?] which effectively broke the chain of causation? Might the officer have been negligent had he not made the driver pull all the way over to the side of the road? (There can be liability for negligently parking a car.) Can the driver's family recover from the trucking company as well as the county? Are there public policy considerations?


In law school I enjoyed hypothetical questions like that. It's not every day you see them in real life.



UPDATE: It's not every day that a real life hypothetical blog entry gets linked by a real life law professor! Thank you Glenn Reynolds, and welcome all InstaPundit readers. Law students, good luck on the exams!

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