March 10, 2006
More on Humanizing Torts
Christine Hurt at Marquette wrote this interesting piece about a personal experience with teaching Torts with a student who had suffered a personal tragedy during the term. You should read it -- it's quite short -- to get the specifics, but she ends with this conclusion:
On the last day of class, as I was wrapping up, I attempted to rectify the situation [described earlier in the piece] somewhat. I reminded my students that every person in our textbook's cases, whether plaintiff or defendant, was a real person who had either been injured, or caused injury to others, and would therefore never be the same.
I admitted that in the interest of being able to discuss theoretically the issues posed by the cases that we had distanced ourselves from these people and had even used humor to disarm both the physically grisly and emotionally wrenching scenarios. However, as lawyers, we have to be sensitive to the fact that we are not dealing with fictional characters but real human beings. No one ever anticipates being a tort victim, I told them, but obviously some of us will be.
New professors learn a lot the first time that they teach a course, and my first semester in "Torts" was no exception. So as I swap topics around in my syllabus for next year, I am putting that speech into my notes for the first day of class.
It's certainly one way to address the problem. Others?
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