Cases and Materials on Torts

Richard A. Epstein

Richard Epstein is a brilliant legal scholar, and I agree with many of his points of view (expanded use of strict liability, his focus on economic efficiency in legal decisions, etc.). However, his casebook was just awful. It was a long, disjointed look at an already scattered topic. Epstein did a horrible job of condensing and organizing the material. There were literally hundreds of mini-cases listed in the notes section followed with unanswered questions or topics to ponder. There was no overall tying of themes or explicit referencing to general themes. It was merely a compilation of cases, which I could have produced.

Additionally, Epstein at least once seemed to intentionally make the subject matter more confusing than it needed to be. For example, in the introduction to proximate cause, he chose Ryan v. New York Central R.R. as the lead case. There, the defendant was not held liable for negligently maintaining his railroad when the plaintiff's house burned down. The court reasoned that the damage must stop somewhere or civilization could not function under the threat of such massive liability. The problem is that this decision is not the current law! In fact, this case is known because so many other cases said it was decided incorrectly.

To my mind, explaining legal rules in a given subject could be very easy, and the organization of the casebook very straightforward. Start with a case highlighting the most current and widely adopted rule on a particular issue. If there are multiple, competing rulings, include a case for each with perhaps a few explanatory sentences in between. If there is a major exception, include a case on that too. Then, in the notes, you can provide the history or other details deemed relevant. Here, Epstein doesn't do that. He head fakes us with what is widely considered an incorrectly ruled case. What is the point of that when someone is trying to learn new information?

Reading some of Epstein's articles and watching him lecture on youtube gave me high hopes for this man's book. It was an utter disappointment.

Book tags: cases, and, materials, torts, epub, download, epub, richard a. epstein

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