Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thus Saith The Law

"Alright class, now settle down, settle down. I'm so glad all of you can make it heah in this abominable weather. Because in addition to being alive, it means you can keep on giving this fine institution your tuition money. Now, befoah we begin, I would like to thank that individual who placed a moose hat outside my office door. That is quite a fine specimen of that magnificent animal, and it's a shame that my wife won't let me wear it around the hawse.
Now, we left off with intentional torts, and we'll work our way through contracts and strict or absolute liability. Just a reminder for the intentional torts, that baseball player case that I described. Bull Moose Jackson, or it could've been Puny Pete or Slimy Sam Jackson for all I remember, was warming up in the bullpen and had to endure that most heinous unpleasantry. No, I'm not referring to in-laws visiting and then their car won't start when they're supposed to leave, I'm referring to heckling. Jackson had been traded quite a bit in the league and the heckler kept saying things like, 'Jackson, I'm surprised you know how to get home at night since you've been traded so often,' 'If it weren't for gravity, you'd have trouble hitting the ground,' 'I've read War and Peace quicker than your fastballs have gone over the plate.'
Well, Jackson had one more pitch before he got up on the mound. But something went awry! He became so confused, that instead of pitching to the catcher, he turned 180 degrees and watched his errant ball bounce off the face of the heckler! Well, Jackson said what you and I would probably have said under those same circumstances: 'Oh gee whiz! How in the world did that just happen? The earth's rotation must be kickin' today!'
Ah, but this is a case of intentional tort. We already covered the criminal aspect in the previous class, so we won't go over that here, but the heckler in this case is faced with a situation. The good news is that he will never have to worry about brushing his teeth ever again. The bad news is that his very favorite teeth are down the back of his throat. What do you do? You'd make the argument for an intentional tort and force Puny Pete to pay for the damages to your favorite teeth.
Now, this leads into a case that features that wonderful institution Virginia Tech. And this case would probably have Thomas Jefferson decomposing in his grave. Wait, I meant rolling in his grave, I'm sorry. But it features libel, of a most serious nature. A university administrator committed some sort of offense in the eyes of a student newspaper editor. Now, it wasn't really an offense, but the perception was there. So, he used his position as editor of the newspaper to put the administrator's full picture above the fold, and this is extremely serious, now, with the words in bold, 'DIRECTOR OF BUTT LICKING' right below the fold. The Supreme Court of VA declined this libel case on the grounds that it should be common knowledge that there's no official post in VA Tech's administrative capacity for butt-licking.
For a contract, you have to have an offer, acceptance, and consideration. Let's say I want to have a hawse built, and there's a graveyard in my backyard. Here, let me draw it for you. See? Right there. But it's not just any graveyard. There's something odd about it. The mounds are about 10 feet wide, and rather large, and the headstones have rather unusual names on them. Names like 'Jumbo' and 'Mojambo.'
'Well that's interesting,' I tell myself. 'Their parents must've been those free spirited types.'
So anyway, I have the contractor build my house, and all is well and good. But as I'm sitting down to watch Lawrence Welk for the evening, there's a loud knock at my door. I'm not expecting company, so I ignore it or hope that my wife will answer the door. But then there's a loud crash and a pack of peripatetic pachyderms crashes through my living room! Did you all understand that? I said, WILD AND ENRAGED ELEPHANTS ARE INTERRUPTING LAWRENCE WELK IN MY HOUSE! As it turns out, that graveyard in my backyard is an elephant graveyard and my house is directly in their path! Now, I didn't know about it, and the contractor didn't know about it. It was not part of the contract. It was not part of the consideration. Generally, these things are settled by either a gentlemen's agreement or by amending the contract due to the circumstances. Um, this case, or situation rather, was based on a movie called Elephant Walk that featured Elizabeth Taylor. It's a good movie. And then when the elephants start tearing down the chandelier it becomes an even better movie.
And now we move onto strict liability. Strict liability means that even if you do absolutely everything correct, and through no fault of your own, something goes wrong within your area of responsibility, you are still responsible. Let me illustrate this for you. Let's say I have a 200 foot tall magnolia tree. That's a big tree. It's too big, in fact. I'm very concerned that the neighborhood kids might try to climb this tree and reenact Jack and the Beanstalk, but simply wind up hurting themselves. So I hire a tree removal service to come out. They take one look at it and say, 'Well that's just too damn big,' and then hand me a card for a demolitions expert. 'Gee,' I say, 'I'm not too sure about this, but if he's the top dog in his field, who am I to argue?'
So the demolitions expert comes out to my hawse, determines he needs about 300 pounds of TNT to get rid of this mammoth tree, and sets the timer and detonation wires. He does everything right. No mistakes. But as soon as he pushes the plunger, a bluebird happens to fly by the tree. But wait! A few hundred yards down the road, there's a tractor-trailer carrying several atomic bombs! And they're armed, because the airmen who were supposed to de-arm them forgot! The bluebird goes flying across and into the windshield of the tractor-trailer and now I no longer have to worry about my tree or debating a meals tax or a new baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom because there's now a giant crater where it would go. The demolitions expert did everything correctly, but because of strict liability, he is still responsible. All right, now, for next class we'll go over 'Machine Gun' Kelly, Ma Barker, and 'Squirrel-Toothed' Alice. Ya'll have a nice weekend."
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