My Torts Syllabus, Fall 2020

First, please sign up to use TWEN on Westlaw for my Torts course. I use TWEN to send email and post handouts and readings. Supplemental readings will be uploaded to TWEN.

Assignments: Because we are on-line this fall, I am adding more writing assignments than usual to make sure you are getting more feedback and direct engagement. I will assign two short writing assignments and a mock exam, a practice for the final exam. The short writing assignments are one hour in-class, each worth 5% of your final grade. The midterm mock exam is worth 15%. The timing will be coordinated to avoid conflicting with your LWR due dates and your Contracts assignments. The short assignments are not graded. You receive five points for turning them in on time and making a reasonable effort. The midterm is graded.

Participation: I will call on students randomly each day. Students who do not feel prepared to answer may ask to be called on later in the same class or may write a poem on that day’s material for the next class. Please email me by noon on the day of the class if you cannot attend or if you are not prepared to be called upon. These responses and overall class participation will factor into final grades (25%).  The grades are primarily based on a blindly graded, open-book, three-hour final examination (50%).

(For more on my poem method, please see the Fordham Lawyer story on it “A Rhyme and a Reason” here).

Required text: Goldberg, Sebok, Zipursky, Tort Law: Responsibilities and Redress (4th ed.) [GSZ]

Recommended (and highly recommended pages in parentheses):

Abraham, Form and Functions of Tort Law (4th or 5th ed.) [FFTL]

Goldberg and Zipursky, Torts (Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law)

If you are interested in resources putting torts in the context of race and racism, I recommend the resources in this post: Professor Jennifer Wriggins, “Teaching Torts with a Focus on Race and Racism”

Required Podcast: “Dr. Death” (Season 1, especially episodes 5, 6 & 7. Note that the first episode and some middle episodes describe gory surgery details, especially episode 1 at 8:40-11:00).  See


Week 1: I. Introduction                            GSZ 2-42. (FFTL 1-23).                                

                                                                        Walter v. Walmart

            II. Intentional Torts:

                        A. Battery                             GSZ 601-03, 613-22 (FFTL 25-32)

                                                                        Vosburg v. Putney, Cole v. Hibberd

Week 2:         Battery continued:             GSZ 623-35

                                                                        Wagner v. State, Garratt v. Dailey

                                                                        Qualified Immunity readings

Nathaniel Sobel, “What is qualified immunity, and what does it have to do with police reform?” Lawfare, June 6, 2020

I. Bennett Capers, John C.P. Goldberg & Benjamin C. Zipursky, “How to reform police liability without involving McConnell or Trump,” Aug. 17, 2020,

Dan Epps, “Abolishing Qualified Immunity Is Unlikely to Alter Police Behavior,” N.Y. Times, June 16, 2020.

                        B. Defenses  1. Consent      GSZ 654-59 (FFTL 36-39)

                                                                        Koffman v. Garnett

                                                2. Self-Defense GSZ 665-70 (FFTL 39-41)

                                                                        Haeussler v. DeLoretto

                        C. False Imprisonment: GSZ 677-85 (Fojtik)

                        D. Intentional Infliction   GSZ 703-11, 724-27 (FFTL 33-36)

                        of Emotional Distress       Littlefield v. McGuffey

Applications: Kanefield & Shugerman: “Trump’s Family Separations Are Unconstitutional: The courts must award damages to families torn apart by the policy” Slate, June 21, 2018,

Week 3:         Sept. 9: In-class writing

                        III. Duty:

                        A. Background                    GSZ 805-13 (Brown v. Kendall)

                        Sept. 10: No class (Officially a Monday schedule)

Week 4          B. Negligence v. Strict Liability

                                                                        GSZ 873-75, 883-88 n. 1-8

                                                                        Rylands chapter in Torts Stories

                                                                        GSZ 154-55

                        C. General duty of care    GSZ 47-74 (MacPherson, Mussivand)

Week 5:

                        D. Qualified duties of care GSZ 74-89 (Osterlind v. Hill,

                                                                        Baker v. Fenneman & Brown)

                        E. Premises Liability        GSZ 90-100, 115-25

                                                (Leffler v. Sharp, Rowland v. Christian)

                        F. Special Relationships   GSZ 125-40

                                                Tarasoff chapter in Torts Stories

Week 6 and 7:

            IV. Breach

A. Meaning of “Negligence” GSZ 143-49 (Myers),

                     Short examples: 154-58 (Pingarro, Jones, Campbell, Adams). Notes 159-63

B. Ordinary Care                   GSZ 165-78 (Vaughan v. Menlove, Appelhans

C. Custom and Medical Malpractice       GSZ 178-201

                                                                        TJ Hooper, Johnson, Condra

                                                                        Largey and notes

                        D. Cost-Benefit                       GSZ 201-15

                                                                        Carroll Towing, R.I. Hosp. Trust Nat’l Bank

                        E. Negligence Per Se              GSZ 383-88,

                                                                        Notes 393-99

                                                                        Dalal, Bayne, Martin v. Herzog, Tedla, Brown v. Shyne, Gorris v. Scott

                        F. Res Ipsa Loquitur                   GSZ 215-25

                                                                        Byrne v. Boadle, Kambat, Ybarra

Week 8:

            V. Actual Causation

                        A. Preponderance of Evidence GSZ 229-60

                                                Zuchowicz (1998) (TWEN supplement)

                        B. Multiple Causes                  GSZ 260-305

                                                Hymowitz/Sindell chapter in Torts Stories

Week 9:          

            VI. Proximate Causation                    GSZ 309-19, 328-30, 331-70,

Notes 374-81

Week 10:

            VII. Damage

A. “Cognizable Damages”

  1. Wrongful Death                GSZ 400-14
  2. Wrongful Life                   Lecture
  3. Pure Economic Loss         GSZ 101-15
  4. Pure Emotional Loss        GSZ 778-800

“Emotions, Part I,” Invisibilia, NPR podcast, June 1, 2017:

Then read updated story here:

Alissa Zhu, “Her child died in a crash. The other driver sued. Now, she finds solace in his story,” Springfield News-Leader, June 20, 2017

Week 11:

B.  Compensatory                   513-36

                        Supplemental reading (TWEN):

                        Margaret Radin

                        Martha Chamallas

F.  Punitive Damages              536-555, 1026-1051

            VII. Defenses

                        A. Comparative Fault             440-52

Week 12

                        B. Assumption of Risk 452-74

                        C. Necessity… see next

            VIII. Strict Liability

(Unit on Ronald Coase, “The Problem of Social Costs,” and Calabresi/Melamed on Property and Liability Rules, from Vincent v. Lake Erie to Boomer v. Atlantic Cement)

                        A. Trespass and Necessity      831-38

                        B. Nuisance                             866-72

Week 13:

                        C. Ultrahazardous                  873-91

                        D. Vicarious Liability             555-66

            IX. Products Liability                         893-908


Week 14 (Wed., Dec 2):

            X. Alternatives to Torts:

                        A. Preemption                        Wyeth v. Levine

                        B. Workers’ Compensation    813-22

                        C. 9/11 Fund                          378-79

Thursday, Dec. 3: Review

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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