Monday, October 26, 2009
As I told my students, this Limerick makes history. It is the first time that a famous line of iambic pentameter has been slipped into a Limerick. The case to which it relates is a fairly simple one. Mr. Pittman and Mrs. Gilligan engaged in discussions about putting up a wall behind her beach-front property to protect it against erosion. The parties' accounts of these discussions differ. Mr. Pittman emerged with the belief that he had marching orders,so he constructed a large V-shaped barrier behind Mrs. Gillegan's Wisconsin property while she was in Chicago. Mrs. Gilligan was distracted because her husband kept yelling "SKIPPER!" Well, perhaps not. But in any case, she did not regard their conversation as resulting in an agreement, and she considered the new retaining wall a monstrosity.
The trial court chided Mr. Pittman for his careless way of doing business and found no meeting of the minds, but it granted Mr. Pittman leave to amend his complaint and to seek recovery based on unjust enrichment. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin was even less sympathetic, finding that there could be no recovery because Mrs. Gilligan did not in fact benefit from having a hideous concrete wall erected on her property. Mr. Pittman was simply going to have to absorb his labor and material costs.
This simple case inspired the following unprecedented legal Limerick:
Dunnebacke v. Pittman
Mrs. Gilligan was not in thrall;
No agreement could she recall.
Pittman may lose his biz,
But something there is
That doesn't love a wall.
After I recited this historic Limerick and informed my students that the last line two lines repeated a line from Robert Frost, one of my students uttered an incredulous, "That's it?!?" It was the first time one of my Limericks has been heckled. I have half a mind to go heckle her while she is studying.
I'll come upon her in the library, and say, "You call that reading? Come on, turn the page already! Pink highlighter, eh? You sure you got the right passages?"
Yeah. We stand-up law professors ought to give as good as we get.