My Torts Exam

For your holiday enjoyment, here’s the essay question from the Torts exam I just gave last week:

The American Association of Law Schools’ yearly law professor gathering is usually a staid affair. Not so this year.

It all started when Dean Priam of USC Law School threw a party at a nearby farmhouse he owned, hoping to build goodwill for his school. In attendance were, among other people, Priam’s young untenured colleague Prof. Paris; a married couple who both teach at Michigan State Profs. Menelaus and Helen; Prof. Hades, of Duke; and Prof. Homer, of Western New England College. Hades also brought his new pet, Cerberus, a half-dog / half-wolf puppy. Cerberus had always been very well-behaved, and was on a special extra-strong leash from Hercules Products; but state law did make it illegal to keep dog/wolf mixes except in cages.

Unfortunately, Priam’s neighbor, Midas, thought he had gold on his property, and was experimenting with an ultrasonic process that he was hoping would make the gold easier to mine. The ultrasonic waves didn’t pose any problems for people or most livestock, but they did agitate dogs a great deal, to the point that some neighboring dogs had done a lot of damage as a result; Midas, though, refused to stop.

At about 9 pm, Midas let loose with the latest ultrasonic blast, and Cerberus went berserk. As it happens, Helen had just been petting Cerberus, but Cerberus promptly bit Helen’s hand. She naturally tried to get away, but Cerberus surged forward so sharply that the leash ripped, leaving Cerberus free to chase after Helen.

Helen ran out of the house, and in the dark fell into a pit that Priam knew about but hadn’t bothered filling. She fortunately broke her fall with her arms, but as a result broke her wrist. Cerberus was still running behind her, so she got up and kept running. She climbed over a short fence, trampled on some roses (which, unbeknownst to her, were Midas’s—the fence, it turns out, marked the boundary between Priam’s land and Midas’s), and kept running, Cerberus at her heels. She then fell into a pit on Midas’s land, and sprained her ankle.

Where was Menelaus in all this? He and Helen had had a terrible fight earlier that day, and he was actually rather enjoying standing on Priam’s porch and watching his wife’s trouble. But Paris ran after Helen and Cerberus, and eventually wrestled Cerberus to the ground.

Helen of course refused to go back to her hotel room with Menelaus. Paris took her to the hospital, and then offered to have her stay in his room. One thing led to another, and Helen and Paris began an affair that night; the next day, Helen told Menelaus that she was leaving him.

Menelaus, enraged by the whole matter, resolved to ruin Paris’s career; he told his friends at USC about how Paris stole Helen from him, which persuaded them to vote against tenure for Paris. He also told his friends at UCLA the same, which persuaded them not to offer Paris a job.

Prof. Homer was so amused by the whole story that he included it in a book that he was writing about shenanigans in academia. He even titled the book after the story, and titled the story, Helen: The Face That Launched a Thousand Torts.

Analyze all the tort claims that could be brought as a result of this situation. You need not predict which of them would win and which would lose, but you should analyze them as thoroughly as you can, giving the best arguments for both sides. Assume that all this conduct is governed by the law of the State of Ilium; but because Ilium doesn’t have much caselaw on these subjects, Ilium judges are potentially open to following any of the rules that we have discussed in class. If for some issue, we’ve studied two or more different rules followed by different jurisdictions, please analyze under each one, and say (if we discussed this) which is the majority rule and which is not. But do not discuss the policy arguments for or against adopting any one of the approaches; it’s enough that you identify and discuss each approach.

Do not discuss what kinds of damages (e.g., lost wages, emotional distress, etc.) may be recovered under the various claims.

As with all law school exams, be sure you cover all plausible arguments, even if you think they are ultimately losers. If some fact on which your answer would turn isn’t included in the question, state this, and state how the fact would affect your answer.

UPDATE: This was the only essay question on a 4-hour exam that also included 17 multiple choice questions (which helped me provide coverage of topics that weren’t much covered on this exam); I would imagine that a typical student would spend about 3 hours on this question.