Assumption of Risk

–From Jennifer Longo, University of Memphis School of Law, Date of event: Spring 2007

At the beginning of the year, my Torts professor made it known that we were not only allowed but encouraged to bring our friends and loved ones to class. Often, he would call on students who brought visitors so they could “impress” their guests. Realizing this might deter some from bringing visitors, he later informed us that if we didn’t want to be picked on for bringing a guest we should just let him know not to call on us. So after months of talking up his class, I finally managed to get my boyfriend of three years, who was in town for Valentine’s Day, to come to class.

On the day of the incident, I sent my professor an email to let him know that my boyfriend was coming to class, and that I didn’t feel any need to impress him so he really didn’t need to call on me. A number of students had brought their significant others to class without incident, so I naively thought it was safe. Well, “Tortman” kept his word and didn’t call on me, but the same didn’t go for my boyfriend.

Ironically, the topic for the day was spousal immunity. In the middle of the lecture, my boyfriend was introduced to the Socratic method firsthand when the professor asked him if he had any questions. He responded in the negative, but Tortman followed up anyway. He said he didn’t want to pry but, since the topic was spousal immunity, he had to ask, “Have you two discussed getting married?”

My boyfriend felt the same feeling that many law students feel when they are faced with a Socratic question to which they don’t have an answer. Stunned, he racked his brain for the correct response as the class erupted in laughter, and I turned bright red. After a prolonged response that felt like forever, my boyfriend responded “no comment.”

This wasn’t the first time that we had been embarrassed about the marriage question but this was the first time it was done in front of a class of seventy people. But I guess I should have been ready for such an event, especially since we had just finished studying assumption of risk.

Needless to say this will be a Valentine’s Day to remember. As for my boyfriend, I don’t think he’s a fan of the Socratic method.

McClurg note: As the perpetrating prof in this incident, I plead guilty to all charges.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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