Torts in the Supreme Court

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Spring 2014 Seminar
Meets: T 5:00pm - 7:00pm in WCC Room 5048
2 classroom credits

The U.S. Supreme Court long ago ruled that it lacks authority to fashion a general common law of torts. As a result, state courts and legislatures have for the last 75 years been the primary expositors of tort doctrine. And yet the Supreme Court has nonetheless found ways to control and influence the development of tort law though its articulation of federal common law, its interpretation of federal tort statutes such as the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Federal Employers Liability Act, its development of the doctrine of federal preemption, and its recognition of federal constitutional limits on liability for defamation, infliction of emotional distress, and punitive damages. This seminar will examine the Court’s major interventions in tort law, and will seek to assess their legal and practical validity. Students will be required to write several short papers explicating and critiquing aspects of the Court’s tort-law jurisprudence.

Prerequisite: Torts

Subject Areas: Procedure & Practice .