Friday, December 7, 2007
As I noted in a previous post, one of my former students loaned me his grandfather's Torts notebook from academic calendar year 1938-39 at the University of Minnesota. The professor was William Prosser. My student's grandfather is Leroy S. Merrifield, who went on to be a law professor (and teach Torts) at GW.
I was curious to see what subjects Prosser covered, and in what order, so I went through the notebook and reconstructed his "syllabus." I suspect it will be very familiar to many of you. It very closely resembles what I teach in a five-credit course.
First, Prosser distinguished between torts and crimes. Then he distinguished between intentional torts and negligence. At that point, he taught the intentional torts. He started with the general topic of intent, and then covered battery, assault, IIED (which he called "intentional infliction of mental suffering," then in its development phase), and false imprisonment. He followed up with the defenses to intentional torts: consent, self defense, defense of property, and necessity.
At that point in the semester, Prosser switched over to negligence. He started with duty, and then worked his way through standard, negligence per se, res ipsa, causation, liability for joint tortfeasors and apportionment, liability for mental disturbance, duty of occupiers and owners of land, and duty of employers to employees. Next he covered the defenses to negligence: assumption of risk and contributory negligence. The final topic in the negligence portion of the course was imputed negligence.
Prosser transitioned to strict liability. As part of this discussion, he covered trespass. He concluded the course with deceit and defamation (then, of course, prior to it being constitutionalized).