Lessons: Torts

A Question and Answer session with Prof. McFarland, author of several of CALI's lessons in Tort Law and Civil Procedure. Prof. McFarland has been teaching for over 30 years. His comments in this podcast about the first semester of law school focus on the Socratic method, preparing for class, note-taking during class, class participation, "riding out" that "lost at sea" feel common during the first few weeks of law school, the appropriate use of study aids, advice about law school exams, and general advice on doing well in law school.

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14:56 minutes
LCS05P

This lesson identifies the law of the intentional tort of assault, and challenges the student to apply unusual fact situations to that law. The exercise explores the tort of assault as it has developed to cover modern settings.

45 minutes
TRT18

A plaintiff who voluntarily assumes a risk of harm cannot recover for the negligent or reckless conduct that causes the harm: that is known as assumption of risk. It is a complete defense. This lesson explores the defense, which together with contributory negligence has been part of negligence law for more than a century-and-a-half. The border between the two classic negligence defenses is sometimes confusing, so questions navigate the differences. Also, the lesson considers the continuing vitality of the defense of assumption of risk when contributory negligence is rapidly being replaced by comparative negligence.

1 hour
TRT40

This lesson will cover the basic, common law elements of defamation. The discussion will review the defamatory statement, truth, and publication concerning the plaintiff. The lesson will also cover the basic issues in privileges. Although substantial Constitutional issues now exist with defamation, those problems will be covered in a separate lesson.

50 minutes
TRT19

The Right of Privacy is actually four different torts. This lesson will cover the basic elements of Commercial Appropriation, Intrusion, Public Disclosure, and False Light. Although it is necessary to make references to the Constitutional issues raised with these claims, that issue will be discussed in more detail in a separate lesson.

40 minutes
TRT26

Battery Basics is an introduction and initial exploration of the intentional tort of battery. It is designed primarily for students who want to test their basic knowledge of the tort, or who spent little or no time on intentional torts in class. Battery Basics identifies the elements of battery, requires application to some common fact situations, and responds to common misconceptions about the tort.

35 minutes
TRT10

Battery Puzzlers is one of two lessons available from CALI on the intentional tort of battery. The other lesson Battery Basics, is designed for students who will spend little time on battery in their classes or are uncomfortable with their understanding of the tort. It is designed to provide a solid understanding of battery. This lesson, Battery Puzzlers, is for students who are already familiar with the tort and who want to deepen their understanding and analysis of battery. It asks questions at the borders of the tort and is designed to stimulate thinking about battery in new ways. It also requires students to apply the principles of the old tort of battery to today's new fact situations. Battery Puzzlers asks the puzzling questions that have stumped students about battery over the years.

30 minutes
TRT12

This exercise begins by illustrating the distinction between cause in fact and legal or proximate cause and then utilizes questions intended to familiarize the student with the but for or sine qua non test and the substantial factor test. The exercise also covers issues relating to concurrent cause dilemmas and problems in identifying which harm was caused to the plaintiff by multiple negligent defendants.

30 minutes
TRT11

This exercise builds upon the tutorial entitled Causation in Fact and that lesson should be completed prior to this exercise. In this exercise, the evidentiary burdens of proof are considered in relation to the use of direct and circumstantial evidence and the use of expert testimony. The exercises illuminate issues surrounding problems of proving who or what caused the plaintiff's harm. Burden shifting devices employed by courts in special situations are also considered.

40 minutes
TRT17

This lesson covers the traditional negligence standard of care for children. It, of course, deals with the exceptional circumstances of when the adult standard applies to children. In addition, the lesson covers other diminished capacity examples, such as mental illness, physical disability, and intoxication.

30 minutes
TRT09

This lesson covers the area traditionally known as "negligence per se." The problem of when can a civil or criminal statute be used as the standard of care in negligence cases is the primary matter discussed. The lesson gives some special attention to the "Dram Shop" example.

40 minutes
TRT16

This lesson tries to explain Coasean irrelevance (which is often known as the "Coase Theorem").

45 minutes to 3 hours
LCS02

This lesson considers the differences between the various comparative fault schemes found in different jurisdictions. It begins by considering in what respects the plaintiff's conduct is being compared with the defendant's conduct. Next, it introduces students to the three main types of comparative fault schemes before going on to illustrate when and how they lead to different results, with particular reference to aggregation of defendants' fault.

50 minutes
TRT07

This interactive exercise addresses the topic of consent as a privilege or defense to various intentional tort claims. It begins with a consideration of how consent is determined to exist and then explores various applications of the defense in contexts such as medical encounters and sporting events. Consideration is given to how the courts have utilized the concept of consent in balancing the competing interests of the plaintiff and the defendant in relation to overarching policy goals. Related exercises which the student may wish to consider are (1) Informed Consent and (2) Assumption of Risk.

40 minutes
TRT39

This lesson assumes the basic issues in defamation have already been covered. Before working with this lesson, the lessons on Basic Issues in Defamation and Privileges and Libel and Slander should have already been reviewed. The material here will use that basic information to study the Constitutional issues that now control defamation. Among those issues are public and private figures, actual malice, burdens of proof, and damages.

50 minutes
TRT33

The Right of Privacy, much like defamation, raises serious Constitutional issues. Those issues arise, primarily, with the tort of Public Disclosure and False Light. This lesson discusses the details raised by that Constitutional problem.

25 minutes
TRT24

This lesson gives the student familiarity with contributory negligence, a defense to a negligence claim, and also with last clear chance, a "defense" to the defense. While these doctrines today are on the wane, students should be generally familiar with them for a full understanding of negligence and comparative negligence.

45 minutes
TRT38

This lesson explores the cause of action of conversion as a means of compensation for intentional interferences with personal property. It will examine the several components of interest, invasion, conduct and remedy as the conceptual vehicles for study. Each section of the lesson will focus on one of these components, present the theory, and then give the student an opportunity to apply the theory or explore some of its ramifications. The lesson is designed to be comprehensive enough to be assigned without supporting textual assignment or classroom attention to the subject. Although the lesson is free-standing, students may find that completing the lesson on trespass to chattels before working on this lesson will produce more satisfactory results.

In its focus upon tort theory the lesson seeks to avoid immersion into the complexities of substantive property law and commercial law that are often litigated in conversion cases.

A separate lesson on Trespass to Chattels deals with the other cause of action that allows one to recover for harms to personal property.

1.5 hours
TRT46

This lesson deals with the basic and specific measures of damages recoverable for tortious injuries to the interest in use and enjoyment of personal property. Students will be acquainted with conceptual and pragmatic problems of valuing the interest in use and enjoyment of personal property. The several methods used by the courts for valuing the interest are explored in the context of concrete problems. Topics include: cost of renting a substitute, inconvenience, the earning power that the chattel holds, and monetary interest calculated upon the value of the chattel.

1 hour
TRT22

This lesson deals with basic and specific measures of damages recoverable in torts for harms to the interest in maintaining the physical integrity of personal property. Invasions of this interest are distinct from invasions of the interest in exclusive possession and the interest in use and enjoyment, and the law of damages reflects the differences. In order to deal effectively with the differences, separate lessons treat the interests in possession and use and enjoyment. The substance of causes of action available in torts for recovering damages is not treated here.

Before working in this lesson the student should complete the lessons on General Concepts of Damages in Torts and Fundamentals of Damages for Harms to Personal Property.

1.25 hours
TRT23

This lesson deals with basic and specific measures of damages recoverable for tortious invasions of the interest in exclusive possession of personal property.

The student will be presented with concrete situations in which to consider application of rules and concepts of the law of damages. Analytically, invasions of the interest are separated into permanent deprivations and temporary deprivations and the different rules applicable to the two different contexts are explored.

Coverage of the topic includes introduction to the problems of: determining the relevant market for reference in valuing the chattel; valuing chattels which have fluctuating value; ascertainable value and the relevance of that term to the issue of whether prejudgment interest on the value of the chattel should be included as damages; rental value as a measure of loss of use; recoverability of damages for emotional distress for the deprivation, among others.

Before working on this lesson, the student should complete the lessons on General Concepts of Damages in Torts and Fundamentals of Damages for Harms to Personal Property. Basic and specific measures of damages recoverable for tortious invasions of the interest in exclusive possession of personal property.

1 hour
TRT21

This lesson deals with basic principles and measures of damages recoverable for harms to real property. The analysis to which students will be acquainted examines the harms in the context of three categories of interests to be protected by the law of damages. Those categories, which are separately treated in the lesson, are exclusive possession, physical integrity and use and enjoyment. The student will be given an opportunity to apply the principles and measures to concrete situations, some of which will raise issues about whether the principles and measures work well to protect the interests under examination. The lesson assumes the student is familiar with basic concepts of damages and has completed the lesson of that title.

1 hour
TRT15

This lesson covers the common law rules and various statutory approaches governing recovery of damages for injuries resulting in death. Questions and problems in the lesson consider the circumstances under which and the extent to which damages are available to protect the interests of persons who die as a result of tortious injuries and the interests of the survivors of those persons.

Students working on the lesson are required to solve problems by parsing and applying statutory language of survivor statutes and wrongful death statutes drawn from eleven different states. In one question, students are invited to construct their own statutory provision to address a problem of coordination between survival and wrongful death statutes.

Students who successfully complete the lesson will have a good working grasp of the different interests addressed by survival statutes and wrongful death statutes; how to calculate damages under each; and the limitations upon recovery that such statutes are likely to contain. Completion of the lesson on Damages for Personal Injuries prior to working on this lesson is highly recommended.

1.5 hours
TRT43

This lesson covers the general principles and basic measures governing the remedy of damages for personal injuries. It explores issues and problems that confront a person seeking the damages remedy to address tortiously-inflicted physical harm.

The lesson considers the damages remedy by examining the general and special rules that govern legal protection of the interests in preserving bodily integrity, mental integrity, and ability to pursue a livelihood. In a series of situations presenting harms to those interests, the student will be asked to analyze the situations, then select, apply and assess those rules.

Working on the problems in the lesson will expose the student to concepts such as ascertainability; the collateral source rule; loss of earnings capacity; mental anguish; pain and suffering; prejudgment interest; reduction to present value; and work life expectancy among others.

A separate lesson, Damages for Injuries that Cause Death, deals with the issues and problems of remedying the ultimate physical injury. Before working in this lesson the student should first complete the lesson on General Concepts of Damages in Torts.

1.5 hours
TRT41

This exercise gives a basic overview of the types of equitable remedies. You need not have read any particular materials or taken any particular law school courses in order to complete the tutorial. It can be used to provide background in your courses where equity is especially relevant or to review the types of equitable remedies for use in a remedies course. The lesson will not examine doctrines of substantive equity (other than to note their existence) nor will the lesson explore the prerequisites for obtaining, defending against, or enforcing equitable remedies. Rather, the lesson is designed to introduce you to the basic vocabulary of equitable remedies.

45 minutes
REM02

This lesson explores the intentional tort of false imprisonment. Beginning with identification of the interest the tort protects, the questions become more and more challenging as they explore the nature of the confinement necessary and appropriate damages. Since the greatest use of the tort today probably is in arrest for shoplifting, the lesson includes a tightly fact-bound question about a person detained for shoplifting. The lesson concludes with false imprisonment in two tough situations: religious deprogramming and nursing home confinement.

30 minutes
TRT28

This lesson serves as background and foundation for other lessons on damages for harms to personal property. It deals with general principles and basic measures of damages recoverable for harms to personal property. The lessons on harms to possessory interests, harms to integrity interests and harms to the interest in use and enjoyment of personal property all will delve more deeply into the intricacies of damages law in this area.

Students will first be introduced to the interests of owners of personal property that are compensated in the law of damages. Then, in problems which raise some fundamental issues, they will be presented with the basic measures of damages. Later, some alternatives to the basic measures will be briefly explored, and students will be introduced to the "Rule of Certainty" in the proof of damages. The substantive causes of action available for recovering damages for harms to personal property are ignored in this lesson.

In addition to working in this lesson, the student should also work in the lesson on General Concepts of Damages in Torts to get a basic grounding in the area of torts damages.

1.5 hours
TRT20

This lesson introduces the student to the structure, function, and terminology of the law of damages in the context of torts cases. It deals with the concept of general and special damages and presents questions that help students distinguish the two categories. Problems of measurement of damages are introduced, and nominal damages are briefly considered.

1 hour
TRT08

This lesson discusses the standard of care of professionals. The initial sections illustrate the general duty of professionals and highlight special problems associated with the professional standard. Special attention is then directed toward the malpractice action against attorneys.

15 minutes
TRT13

Professor Ron Eades has taught Torts Law for over 25 years. In this podcast Prof. Eades offers advice on preparing for class, classroom dynamics, note taking, post-class studying, outlining, ways to measure your progress, "pitfalls" to studying Torts, what students should try and get from class. He also offers general advice for 1Ls starting law school and the study of Torts.

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18:15 minutes
TRT48P

This is an exercise requiring the student to apply the concept of intent, as defined in Restatement (Second) of Torts. The student is asked (1) to approve or disapprove asserted propositions applying the concept to a fact situation; (2) to identify the errors in erroneous propositions; (3) to indicate how erroneous propositions can be corrected; and (4) to identify, in the role of associate counsel at trial, appropriate grounds of objection to a proposed charge to the jury.

1.5 hours
TRT01

These lessons have been temporaily removed for revisions. Thank you for your patience. CALI


This program requires the student to apply the concept of “intent” as defined in Restatement (Second) of Torts. By means of computer-generated questions the student is asked to (1) approve or disapprove asserted propositions applying the concept to a fact situation and (2) identify the errors in erroneous propositions.

1 hour
TRT02

This lesson explores an intentional tort that is one of the most recent torts to emerge, one of the most commonly pleaded today, and one that is still evolving. The tort is most commonly called intentional infliction of mental distress; sometimes courts call it intentional infliction of emotional distress, or simply outrage. The lesson requires no advance preparation; it is designed so that it provides both a solid understanding of the tort and then difficult and challenging questions to students who have already studied the tort at length.

35 minutes
TRT27

This lesson is designed to lead the student through exploration of the intentional torts. It is divided into intent, torts against person, torts against property, and defenses. Each of these sections is subdivided: for example, the torts against person section contains questions on battery, assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of mental distress. This organization allows use of the lesson in various ways. A student can divide the lesson into segments of differing size, such as consideration of a single tort in a single sitting, or consideration of all of the torts against property in a single sitting. Also, students will find value in the questions before, during, or after classroom work on the torts. Some professors may choose to assign the lesson in lieu of class time on the subject. The questions lead the student far beyond the elements of the torts into factual applications, policy considerations, and argument evaluation.

Numerous hypertext links and citations to authorities invite the student to consideration of differing views and to further research into the area. The lesson often engages the student in a "dialogue" on the merit of a response.

0.75 - 1 hour for each section.
TRT04

This Lessonette® deals with the question of when and why an event that intervenes between the defendant's negligence and the plaintiff's injury may have the result that the defendant is relieved of liability for the injury.

20 minutes
TRT42

This lesson deals with liability for defectively designed products and products that are defective because of an inadequate warning. It does not consider liability for defectively manufactured products, which are dealt with in the lesson Liability for Defectively Manufactured Products. It begins by comparing the two predominant tests for determining whether a product is defectively designed (the consumer expectations test and the risk/utility test), then considers the impact of warnings, including a consideration of the learned intermediary doctrine.

40 minutes
TRT29

This lesson deals with liability for defectively manufactured products. It does not consider liability for defectively designed products, or products that are defective because of an inadequate warning, which are dealt with in the lesson Liability for Defectively Designed Products. It begins by considering who can be strictly liable for a defectively manufactured product--manufacturer and subsequent sellers--then goes on to consider what kinds of products attract strict liability. Finally, it considers the key question of proof of a causal link between the defect in the product and the harm suffered by the plaintiff.

40 minutes
TRT35

One of the difficult common law issues in defamation was the distinction between libel and slander. This lesson explains the differences between the two types of defamatory statements. Material is provided on the damage requirements of both. This lesson is part of a series about defamation. One should review the lesson on Basic Issues in Defamation and Privileges before working with this exercise. After finishing this one, the exercise on Constitutional Issues in Defamation should be covered.

30 minutes
TRT30

This lesson deals with the rules governing the liability of multiple defendants in torts cases. It begins by examining joint and several liability and the rules governing contribution between tortfeasors, then moves on to consider why the majority of states has now modified the rules of joint and several liability. It also contrasts the different results produced by joint and several liability on the one hand and several liability on the other in cases involving insolvent defendants and settling defendants.

35 minutes
TRT34

The traditional division of negligence into duty, breach of duty, causation (cause in fact and proximate cause), and damages provides the structure of this lesson. The student will find navigation to an individual section or even to an individual area (such as res ipsa loquitur within breach of duty) easy. The most likely use of the lesson is as a review and test of understanding following classroom discussion, but the questions can also be used to preview that discussion. Because the lesson is lengthy, the student is invited to divide it into at least two sessions. The lesson is designed to reinforce the student's understanding of the basic law of negligence, and then to lead far beyond the elements of the tort into factual applications, policy considerations, and argument evaluation.

Numerous hypertext links and citations to authorities invite the student to consideration of differing views and to further research into the area. The lesson often engages the student in a "dialogue" on the merit of a response.

0.5 - 1 hour for each section.
TRT05

This lesson focuses on the distinction between invitees and licensees, and the duty owed by an occupier to each category of entrant. It includes problems designed to test student understanding of the distinction between licensees and invitees, and to highlight the differences between the duties owed to each.

40 minutes
TRT31

This lesson is concerned with the liability of occupiers of premises to trespassers on those premises. It begins by considering who is a trespasser for these purposes, before moving on to consider the content of the duty owed by occupiers to trespassers. The special case of child trespassers is given special consideration.

40 minutes
TRT14

Prof. Lawrence Wilkins discusses Palsgraf v. Long Island RR Co.

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11:53 minutes
TRT05P

This lesson contains problems and questions concerning the Reasonable Person standard for negligence actions. The central issue in negligence is the duty of care. For the typical adult, the standard is the Reasonable Person of Ordinary Prudence under similar circumstances. This lesson will discuss that issue by focusing on the meaning of:


  • Reasonable person
  • Ordinary prudence
  • Similar circumstances

35 minutes
TRT06

Even though the thing speaks for itself, this lesson speaks more about res ipsa loquitur. This tort doctrine becomes an immediate favorite of all who hear its mellifluous name, but the doctrine has several nuances that do not speak so clearly, such as the circumstances when it applies, how common carriers are covered, and how it is conveyed to the jury. This lesson explores all of those nuances.

25 minutes
TRT32

This lesson deals with the respective roles of judge and jury in deciding a torts case. It considers the procedural devices used (primarily by defendants) in an attempt to keep the case away from the jury and to provide the basis for an appeal.

45 minutes
TRT25

These lessons have been temporaily removed for revisions. Thank you for your patience. CALI


The student answers questions concerning an eye injury to 7-year-old Edwina Sprague caused by her classmate, Brad Lee. The student must identify entities against whom claims may be made and must consider theories of those claims and instructions to the jury. Also, the student has an opportunity to submit to the computer questions seeking information from a vital witness; this information bears upon instructions to the jury.

1-2 hours
TRT03

Strict liability for animals is one of the oldest forms of strict liability in tort law. The topic concerns the problems that arise with both trespassing animals and attacking animals. This lesson discusses and illustrates the rules that apply to that area.

35 minutes
TRT37

This podcast discusses material that is also covered in Prof. Eades' two CALI lessons Strict Liability and Animals and Strict Liability: Abnormally Dangerous and Ultrahazardous Activities

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7:19 minutes
TRT36P

Strict liability for dangerous activities began with the English case of Rylands v. Fletcher. The First Restatement and the Second Restatement both contained provisions for a similar form of such strict liability and such liability is widely recognized in the United States. This lesson explains and uses examples to explain and then compare and contrast those different theories. In addition, this lesson covers the basic limitations on that form of strict liability.

50 minutes
TRT36

This lesson is an exploration of the law of torts enabling a person to obtain compensation for wrongful interference with personal property. The exploration uses the concepts of interests, invasion, conduct and remedy as the vehicles for developing understanding of the cause of action and its operation. Each section of the lesson will focus on one of these components, present the theory, and then give the student an opportunity to apply the theory or explore some of its ramifications. The lesson is designed to be comprehensive enough to be assigned without supporting textual assignments or classroom attention to the subject. Although this lesson and the companion lesson on conversion are free-standing, the student may find that completing this lesson first will produce best results.

1 hour and 45 minutes
TRT47

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