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My Fall 2009 Torts Class:

I've finally finished my syllabus and supplemental readings for the Torts class I'll be teaching this Fall; if you want to take a look, it's here. I try to create pretty detailed syllabuses for my first-semester students, in which I discuss the pedagogical goals for each unit and often pose questions or give background information; that ends up being about a page per unit, which together with the supplemental readings and some preliminary materials means I've had to produce 104 pages. A lot of work up front, but I think that it pays off during the semester.

In any case, I thought I'd mention what we'll be covering. We'll begin with trespass, and the defense of necessity. We'll go on to negligence, causation, strict liability, product liability (which is partly strict liability and partly negligence), and nuisance. We'll do damages, contributory and comparative negligence, and assumption of risk. We'll then cover intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with contract, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, alienation of affections and criminal conversation, disclosure of embarrassing facts, and the right of publicity.

That's a lot of coverage, but the class is 5 units (i.e., 250 minutes per week) and runs 14 weeks. The readings thus end up being only 6 to 7 pages per unit, pretty modest as law school readings go. And I hope it gives students exposure to a wide range of concepts and principles that arise routinely in tort cases, including business tort cases and not just personal injury cases. (If I had still more time, I'd have liked to include some of the falsehood-based torts, such as fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and trade libel.) If you're curious, check out the syllabus.

UPDATE: Note that the view at UCLA is that our classes aren't primarily aimed at preparing students for the bar, though we hope that the concepts and skills we teach will help them on the bar. Likewise, while we tend to focus on areas that are practically important -- which is why I don't include battery, for instance, but I do include the interference with contract and business relations, as well as the basic negligence and strict liability cases -- that isn't our only goal.

Rather, we will sometimes (1) include a topic that is a good vehicle for exposing students to certain concepts or policy arguments, even if it's not that practically important, and (2) not include a topic that is practically important but that uses concepts that we think are covered well elsewhere, and that practicing lawyers can therefore easily pick up on their own. Plus we'll sometimes cover some fields just because we think they're especially likely to excite students and thus produce an interesting class discussion of the broader issues.

That, for instance, is why I haven't included conversion, but included alienation of affections (which in case takes up less than one day). As to libel, my worry is that it would take too long to cover it adequately, plus much of it is covered in most First Amendment law classes. I've therefore decided to cover the communicative torts via the right of publicity and the disclosure of private facts tort, which are more manageable, and which also involve live current policy debates among the courts in a way that libel law doesn't.

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