Guilty, er, Liable, as Charged

–From Keaton Oberst, Texas Wesleyan School of Law, Date of event: Fall 2005

On the very first day of Torts, a student was reciting the facts of a case, and concluded that the defendant was found “guilty.”

“Really?” the professor asked, sounding intrigued. “He was found guilty.”

The student responded that the defendant was indeed guilty. Without warning, the professor threw himself against the wall in mock distress.

This surprising prompt allowed the student to realize her mistake in confusing civil and criminal justice. She corrected herself by saying the defendant was liable.

The professor responded, “Phew! I was worried there for a second!”

The class was amused and my colleague seemed quite embarrassed.

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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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