My Torts Syllabus, Fall 2020

As promised, my Torts syllabus from Goldberg, Sebok, Zipursky’s casebook:


Overview: Tort law, to put it simply, concerns the legal protection through civil proceedings to protect bodily autonomy, emotional integrity, and property. It is the law of personal injuries and accidents, but it is also the law that protects the broadest range of private rights and public goods. We begin with intentional torts as an introduction to the subject. Then we proceed step by step through the elements of a tort: duty, breach, causation, damage, and defenses. We will focus on the purposes of the tort system, including corrective or moral justice (and civil recourse), deterrence, compensation, and social justice, as well as secondary factors like judicial economy/institutional efficiencies.

The course focuses chiefly on the law of negligence and strict liability. We conclude by exploring alternatives to the tort system, such as regulation, workers compensation, insurance, and no-fault programs.

Goals of the class:

  1. Learn how to read a case for a) the key facts, b) the procedural posture, c) the legal question or issue, d) the rule, and e) the reasoning and analysis.
  2. Learn common law reasoning, focusing on the role of precedent and synthesis.
  3. Learn to engage in legal argument. What are the arguments on both sides?
  4. Understand fundamental concepts in torts that arise frequently in many areas of law, such as causation, rules and standards, strict liability, the harm within the risk, judicial economy, private attorney general
  5. Learn the structure and principles of tort law, including the purposes of corrective justice, deterrence/efficiency, compensation, loss spreading, and social redress.  These topics will introduce a variety of perspectives on American law: doctrine, policy, politics, history, theory, economics, and psychology.

[For rest of syllabus, click on “page 2” below]

Author: Jed Shugerman

Legal historian at Fordham Law School, teaching Torts, Administrative Law, and Constitutional History. JD/PhD in History, Yale. Red Sox and Celtics fan, youth soccer coach. Author of "The People's Courts: Pursuing Judicial Independence in America" (2012) on the rise of judicial elections in America. I filed an amicus brief in the Emoluments litigation against Trump along with a great team of historians. I'm working on "The Rise of the Prosecutor Politicians," a history of prosecutors and political ambition (a cause of mass incarceration), and "The Imaginary Unitary Executive," on the myths and history of presidential power in America.

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