§ 1. Have something to say--and think it through.
Begin the following exercises by looking up the cases cited. Then
write a casenote for each one--that is, a short case synopsis that follows a
standard form: (1) case name and citation; (2) brief facts; (3) question for
decision; (4) holding; (5) reasoning. Your finished product should fit on a
five-by-seven-inch index card (front and back). The exercises are increasingly
challenging for either or both of two reasons: first, the increasing complexity
of the legal principles involved; and second, the increasing difficulty of the
language used in the opinions. When you're finished, have a friend assess how
easy it is to understand what you've written.
Here's an example of a casenote:
Case: Henderson v. Ford Motor
Co., 519 S.W.2d 87 (Tex. 1974).
Facts: While driving in city traffic,
Henderson found that, despite repeated attempts, she couldn't brake. To avoid
injuring anyone, she ran into a pole. An investigator later found that part of
a rubber gasket from the air filter had gotten into the carburetor. Henderson
sued Ford on various theories, including defective design. Her expert witness
didn't criticize the design of the gasket, carburetor, or air filter, but did
say that the positioning of the parts might have been better. No one testified
that the air-filter housing was unreasonably dangerous from the time of
installation. Yet the jury determined that the air-filter housing was defective
and that this defect had caused Henderson's damage.
Question: The expert witness didn't
testify that the design was unreasonably dangerous--only that it could be
improved on. Is this testimony sufficient to support a jury finding that a
product's design is unreasonably dangerous?
Holding: Mere evidence that a design could
be made better--without evidence that the design itself was unreasonably
dangerous--is insufficient to impose liability on a manufacturer.
Reasoning: A person suing on a design
defect must provide some evidence that the design of the product made it unreasonably
dangerous. Specifically, the evidence must show that a prudent manufacturer who
was knowledgeable about the risks would not have placed the particular product
in the stream of commerce. Mere speculation that a product might be improved on
does not constitute evidence of a design defect. A manufacturer is not required
to design the best product scientifically possible.
Write a casenote for Serrano-Moran v. Grau-Gaztambide, 195 F.3d 68 (1st Cir.
1999). If you belong to a writing group or class, bring a copy of your casenote
for each colleague.
Write a casenote for Floudiotis v. State, 726 A.2d 1196 (Del. 1999). If you
belong to a writing group or class, bring a copy of your casenote for each
a casenote for Atlas Food Systems & Services, Inc. v. Crane National
Vendors, Inc., 99 F.3d 587 (4th Cir. 1996). If you belong to a writing
group or class, bring a copy of your casenote for each colleague.
© 2001, Bryan A. Garner
These exercises appear in Bryan A. Garner's Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with
Exercises, published by The University of Chicago Press and available at bookstores and
on the Web at www.press.uchicago.edu.