Torts - Policies - Spring 2013

Fordham Law School

Torts - Fall 2013 Policies updated  August 26, 2013

George W. Conk
Adjunct Professor of Law
Senior Fellow, Stein Center for Law & Ethics
Rm 409
office hours by appointment (scheduling appointments by email is preferred)

Class schedule:
Tuesday          6:00 PM -  8:50 PM
Thursday        6:00 PM - 7:50 PM

Required casebook:

Franklin, Rabin & Green, Tort Law & Alternatives, 9th Edition, Foundation Press

The syllabus is on my blog TortsToday.  I recommend you subscribe by email.  My syllabus is always a work in progress.  It will be updated/modified during the semester.  Material relevant to the course will often be the subject of new blog posts.  Many reading assignments will be found on the blog. 
Many materials on the syllabus are hyperlinked to Scribd.  They are public domain documents or excerpts of copyrighted documents as permitted by the fair use doctrine.  You may also find those items on TWEN or Westlaw/Lexis or often by googling the citation. 

Webcourse: TWEN

You should enroll in the Westlaw/TWEN course Torts.  


Attendance is mandatory.  ABA accreditation standards require that I certify you have been in "good and regular attendance".
Tardiness is inconsiderate of fellow students and the teacher.

Absences without advance notice are unexcused, save for genuine emergency or circumstances beyond your control.  If you cannot attend a class an email with the explanation will usually suffice.  If you miss a class without giving me advance notice you must write to me and explain the circumstances that prevented attendance.

Law school can be stressful - and life often brings unavoidable burdens and difficulties.  If anything is preventing you from attending class regularly, or interferes with your ability to study effectively, please feel free to discuss it with me privately.  
The Dean of Students office is always available to provide professional confidential assistance with any problem that interferes with your studies or your health.  For accommodation due to illness or disability see the statement at the bottom of this page.

Powerpoint slides

Last semester's slides are on TWEN.  I will usually send you updated slides via email and post them on TWEN, replacing the existing file.    After class I may correct or reorganize material in the slides.  If I do that I will send you the replacement file.  They will also be on TWEN in their most up to date form. 

I do NOT follow the slides in typical sequential power-point slide presentation form.  I principally use slides as discussion aids.  There is a lot of material on slides that will not be discussed in class.  Much of it is key quotes, pattern or model jury instructions, or Restatement black letter rules.   It is there to aid discussion or review.  I strongly recommend you read the slides before class.  The easiest way to do that is to open them in Powerpoint and view them in outline format.

Laptop abuse: Please resist any temptation to indulge in “IM’ing”, attending to email, etc.  It is rude, distracting to me as well as to you, and unproductive.

Course blog: Torts Today
The syllabus is posted there under Pages - as are these policies.  Some materials are linked because they are freely accessible on the web, such as Supreme Court opinions (for which I usually use the Cornell Law Library), scholarly articles on is free)., on Scribd (usually materials I have uploaded), or other accessible website like SawStop.  Other assigned or recommended materials may be available as posts on TortsToday.

I often list on the syllabus the official reporter citation.  That will bring you to the full text of the case.  Googling citation and caption will often bring up the full text of a decision.  I recommend using Lexis 'get by citation' because it is uncluttered by the clutter of the Westlaw keynote system.  But if you do access a case via Westlaw I suggest ignoring all their key-numbered headnotes.  Just read what the judges have to say, not the headnotes drafted for an antique indexing system.

Explore TortsToday.  There are helpful links to other blogs and research resources.
I suggest you subscribe to Torts Today by email so that you get notice of syllabus changes and new posts.
I will often add posts that are of interest to the study of torts.  (Feel free to email me with suggested material for posting.)  You are welcome to comment on posts.  As the semester goes on and I come across relevant or interesting material I will post it on Torts Today.

Occasionally I may suggest you will find something of use or interest on my blog Otherwise, which as its name says, ranges far beyond law.
Otherwise - Commentaries on Lawyering, Language and Politics

Reading: All reading listed on the syllabus is required unless otherwise noted.   Slides developed by me are part of assigned reading, whether they are discussed in class or not.  

Lectures, slides,  and classroom discussion supplement and explain the subjects of the required reading.  Not all assigned reading material is discussed in class.  Some is discussed in depth, some lightly, some not at all.   Dialog is inherently unpredictable.  Class will reflect that.
Notes in the casebook and undiscussed material may be valuable resources for the final exam, which will be limited open book.  You should read the notes that follow principal cases even though they are only occasionally discussed in class.

Speaking in class: By all means.  Dialog is key to learning to think like a lawyer.  I will make every effort to recognize everyone who wants to speak.  I may call on you but generally I will seek volunteers.

If you are not one who likes to speak in class, speak to me any chance you can find.  You will learn that I enjoy discussions with students and am very approachable.   To be sure to have my undivided attention make an appointment to see me.

A few students may receive a 1/3 grade boost for particularly helpful classroom participation.  But that is NOT the reason to participate.  The real reason is that practice helps you learn the art of "thinking like a lawyer".

Classroom presentations - briefing cases

To improve participation  I will assign cases to two students - proceeding in alphabetical order.  When we begin discussion of a case I may ask you to open the discussion of the case.  The conventional way to prepare is to "brief the case" using the IRAC method.

Although you may choose to collaborate my suggestion is to work individually.  If you are assigned please send me your case brief by noon the day of class.  It may not exceed 500 words and should be in complete sentences.  Include your last name as part of the file name and at the top of the page.  
I will generally send you comments on your effort, and may make editorial changes so be sure to check your email an hour before class.  I will not assign grades.


You can often engage me after class as we leave - though with such a long, late class, let's avoid Tuesdays.  Email is good.  If your question is instructive I may send your question and my reply to the entire class - but I will not identify you as the inquirer.

Office hours: By appointment.  On the hour and half-hour.  Generally Monday afternoons and early evening are best.   Please make appointments by email.

Other reading

Shapo & Shapo, Law School Without Fear: strategies for success, 2d edition, Foundation Press

I recommend the Shapo book because their discussion on testing conveys very well what I look for in evaluating exams.

There are many nutshells, outlines, etc. that you may find helpful.

Mark Geistfeld’s concise treatment Tort Law: The Essentials is good.

Of the broad treatises on torts I recommend Dan Dobbs, Handbook of Torts, West (2000).  You are not obligated to buy it.  But if you want to have such a treatise - that is the best available.


There will be a three hour open book essay-type final examination which will constitute the sole basis for your grade.  It may be hand written or composed on a laptop (preferred) if you register with Exam 4.  You can bring the casebook, class notes and anything distributed in class or posted by me on the blog or on TWEN.  Prior years’ mid-term and final exams and model or exemplary answers will be available on the final exam page on Torts Today.

Rhetoric and writing style

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion.  Legal writing is persuasive writing.  Its object is to guide or bring about  action.    No mistake is greater than mistaking the facts.  Nothing is more destructive of persuasiveness than hyperbole.  Attention to voice and phrasing are important.  "These are the times that try men's souls" is far more effective than "these are trying times for men's souls".

Judge Ruggero Aldisert is a master of legal prose.  Check out this post

Judicial opinions are a good guide to what I consider to be model answers - as are model answers I have posted.   The judicial opinions in the casebook are heavily edited.  They generally omit the statements of facts and most citations to authority.  The full text of all principal cases will be posted on the webcourse.  They are valuable style guides to good legal writing.  I consider the opinion of Judge Cardozo in the landmark product liability case MacPherson v. Buick Motor Company (p. 550)  the north star for style and use of precedent and analogy to advance the law. It is worth reading the full text.

Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is, for me, the best guide to plain, effective modern prose. 

 Comments by me on rhetoric (the art of persuasive speech and writing) are sometimes posted on Otherwise.  Search the blog via the Google search box for “Rhetoric”.

Because my examinations are open book essays I expect you to cite to appropriate authorities among those materials.  But the most important thing is make a coherent argument, making your reasoning plain in words.  Reference solely to cases or statutes tends to be opaque unless the authority is so well known and the proposition it stands for is so precise that it is iconic.  (E.g. `First Amendment rights’ may be an effective substitute for explicit statement of freedom of speech, assembly or press, in context.  But coupled together each is stronger and more precise: Thus “John Peter Zenger’s case inspired the First Amendment protections of press freedom” is stronger than “John Peter Zenger’s case inspired the First Amendment”.


Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, all students, with or without disabilities, are entitled to equal access to the programs and activities of Fordham University. If you believe that you have a disability that may interfere with your ability to participate in the activities, coursework, or assessment of the object of this course, you may be entitled to accommodations.

The Law School’s policy can be found at:
To discuss your needs you should contact Abel Montez, Director of Student Affairs, Fordham University School of Law, Office of Disability Services, Garden Level, Room 06, 212-636-7955. 
Students must register with his office no later than the end of the third week of classes.