TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Friday, October 21, 2011

Georgia Supreme Court to Take Up Wild Animals Case

The Georgia Supreme Court agreed to take up a case challenging the limitations of liability for landowners when a person is injured by a wild animal.  The details of the case:

In October 2007, 83-year-old Gwyneth Williams was house-sitting for her daughter and son-in-law in their Savannah-area suburb while the couple were in Europe.

Neighbors found Williams floating dead in one of the many lagoons that dot the swampy coastal development, known as The Landings. A medical examiner determined that an alligator had bitten off Williams' forearms, her hands and her right foot. A trapper eventually found an 8-foot alligator, killed it and found Williams' body parts inside the creature's stomach.

Williams's survivors brought suit, challenging the doctrine that landowners are not liable for wild animals unless the landowner has domesticated or controlled the animals. 


October 21, 2011 in Current Affairs, Teaching Torts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY: Defining "Serious Injury" for Purposes of the No-Fault Threshold

Eric Turkewitz has a great post on New York's highest court wading into the issue of what constitutes a "serious injury" for purposes of the state's no-fault threshold.  The failure to set proper thresholds is one of the biggest reasons that no-fault has not performed as well as it was expected to.  Monetary thresholds were set too low and verbal thresholds were too vague.  Eric rightfully challenges the language of New York's verbal threshold (and it's one of the best-drafted statutes).

Tighter threshold language is relevant to an issue I've been working on lately.  The Malaysian automobile tort system is terribly inefficient.  Among other things, Malaysia has separate hearings for liability and damages, often months or even years apart.  A group of Malaysian researchers led by Norila Abu Hasan is preparing a no-fault choice automobile proposal.  Last December, they visited the United States and consulted several scholars, including Andy Popper and Jeffrey O'Connell.  I told them drafting a proper threshold was crucial to the success of the system.  I'll be presenting a paper on thresholds in Malaysia in December. 

Eric provided the language in the New York statute in his post, complete with his italicized portions indicating vagueness problems:

  1. A personal injury that results in death;
  2. Dismemberment;
  3. A significant disfigurement;
  4. A fracture;
  5. The loss of a fetus;
  6. Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system;
  7. Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member;
  8. Significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or
  9. A medically determined injury or impairment of a non- permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment”.

Eric also recommended that the legislature revisit the language.  As someone who will be recommending threshold language in the near future, how should it be changed?  I'd love to hear from Eric or anyone else who has ideas on the subject.


October 21, 2011 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Judge Posner to Receive 2012 Prosser Award

From the AALS Torts and Compensation Section's Executive Committee: 

 The William Prosser award will be presented at our Section meeting on January 5, 2012 at 9-12 pm.  The Prosser Award was created and presented to its first recipient, Leon Green, in 1974. Later awardees included Fleming James Jr., Wex Malone, W. Page Keeton, John Wade and Willard Pedrick.  More recent honorees include Dan B. Dobbs, Guido Calabresi, Oscar Gray, and Robert Rabin.

 When Wex Malone bestowed the first Prosser award upon Leon Green, Malone remarked that the award “is designed to recognize a lifetime of truly outstanding contribution to the world of Torts.”

This year’s honoree – the Hon. Richard A. Posner, Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School-has authored academic works as well as judicial opinions that have reshaped the way we think and teach about tort law.   One nominator wrote that “Judge Posner returned Torts to its special position as one of the most exciting, intellectually challenging, and magnetic fields of study in all of the legal academy.” Judge Posner’s writings provide law teachers and scholars with an analytical framework to approach many tort law issues.   A nominator mentioned how Posner developed a grand theory of tort law beginning with his 1972 article, “A Theory of Negligence.” Judge Posner’s judicial opinions and academic writing have reshaped the way torts teacher teach and think about setting the standard of care.   
 First year law students learn the law and economics perspective on tort law through appellate cases authored by Judge Richard Posner.  A nominator described Judge Posner as having the “Holmesian gift of utilizing the sharp tools of a brilliant academic mind to craft insightful and eloquent judicial opinions.”
 The Executive Committee would like to extend our congratulations to our respected colleague whose doctrinal and theoretical work has been so influential.  We would also like to acknowledge his role as a mentor to younger torts scholars and teachers.

October 18, 2011 in Conferences, TortsProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mississippi Supreme Court Asks for More Briefing in Tort Reform Case

The AP reports that the Mississippi Supreme Court has called for additional briefing in a certified question regarding the constitutionality of Mississippi's $1 million cap on non-economic damages.

Specifically, in the case before the court, the parties agreed that $2.2 million of the $4 million jury award was for non-economic damages. The Mississippi Supreme Court has asked the parties to explain how they reached that amount.

More from the AP story.


October 18, 2011 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gender & Torts Scholarship

Bridget Crawford posts, at Feminst Law Professors, asking where the women are in a recent torts symposium published by the William Mitchell Law Review (in which one out of fourteen participants is female), and links to a 2009 post from Ann Bartow noting another symposium with zero female participants.


October 17, 2011 in Conferences, Current Affairs, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)