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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Law of Turkey Leftovers

BushturkeyhappyI have posited here before that all of contract law could be taught with turkey cases. I’ve recycled two turkey posts year after year, perhaps leading some to believe that I fulfill my blogging commitments with leftovers. But, I am now working on a casebook proposal for The Modern Law of the Turkey: Cases and Problems. Here’s a teaser:

The chapter on Turkeys and Torts will include Pepin v. Wal-Mart Stores, 542 F.Supp.2d 107 (D. Me. 2008). There, a customer at a Wal-Mart store was knocked unconscious when some combination of boxes and frozen turkeys fell off of a pallet and struck him. This case provides a lesson in res ipsa loquitor, a claim which survived Wal-Mart’s motion for summary judgment:

Plaintiff's claim presents a classic res ipsa loquitur case. Resolving all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiff, the record on summary judgment supports that Plaintiff has satisfied his burden to produce evidence establishing each element of res ipsa loquitur.

First, there is an unexplained accident: empty turkey boxes fell off of a pallet and struck Pepin. * * * Second, the boxes and pallet were under the management and control of Defendant Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart does not argue otherwise. * * * Third, in the ordinary course of events, this type of accident does not happen absent negligence. This is not a case where there are multiple reasonable causes for a pipe to burst or where two independent automobiles collided. * * * Instead, the character of this accident, where a stack of seemingly stable boxes and/or frozen turkeys fell, is not the type of accident to occur absent negligence.

The chapter on Turkeys and Intellectual Property will include Lucky Break Wishbone Corp. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 528 F.Supp.2d 1106 (W.D.Wash. 2007), which involved claims of copyright infringement against an advertising agency, retailer and other competitors. What was the purportedly copyrighted item? Lucky Break Wishbone Corp's founder, Ken Ahroni, conceived of a mass-produced plastic breakable turkey wishbone during Thanksgiving in November 1999, and he kept the wishbone from his Thanksgiving turkey to use as a model. Ahroni took the natural wishbone to a company, which, in turn, used 3-D design and manufacturing software to collect basic structure data of the natural wishbone for use in manufacturing. A prototype was created and Lucky Break registered the “Lucky Break Wishbone” sculpture with the United States Copyright Office.

The chapter on Turkeys and Criminal Law and Process will include People v. Chafford, 2007 WL 2751878 Cal.App. 1 Dist., Sept. 1, 2007) (no longer good for at least one point of law), which raises issues of prosecutorial misconduct based on the following statements made by a prosecutor during closing arguments:

“Now, reasonable doubt, I want to touch on that. Reasonable doubt was presented to you by Mr. Keller as some type of insurmountable burden. It's not. It's not only the same burden that's used in this case, it's the same burden or standard of proof that's used in every criminal court in California and in the country. People are convicted beyond a reasonable doubt every day, so it is not this great insurmountable burden.

“It's built into the system that we have ... and as such, it's always used as a defense. Crime wasn't proven to you beyond a reasonable doubt. That's always a defense to any criminal case. It's kind of like you make the analogy: you can't have Thanksgiving without turkey. Well, you can't have a criminal trial without the defense being reasonable doubt. That's just the way it is. It's built right into the system. [emphasis added] * * *

“Ladies and gentlemen, reasonable doubt is there for a reason. It's there to protect the innocent; it is not meant to be used as a legal loophole for the guilty. Remember that when you're discussing reasonable doubt.”

As always, it is, without a doubt, that we here at ContractsProf wish you a happy Thanksgiving!

[Meredith R. Miller]

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Tracked on Nov 30, 2008 11:13:14 PM