Kid Figures Out Torts, Wants Dad to Explain Why Casebook Is So Long

–From David Barman, Florida International University College of Law, Date of event: circa 2005

My son saw my first-year law school casebooks and picked up my Torts book. His first comment was: “Twelve hundred pages. That’s more than Harry Potter!”

Then he asked me, “What is Torts?” He’s a bright boy, but he is only nine. I asked him: “If you park your bike on the sidewalk, and a man hits your bike with a car, who did something wrong?” He said the man with the car. I asked why. My son answered “Because I’m allowed to put my bike on the sidewalk, but he isn’t allowed to drive on the sidewalk.” I said “Correct.”

Then I asked him: “Does the man in the car have to pay for the bike?” My son said yes. Then I said, “What if you get off your bike on the street and you leave it there just for a minute, and a man in a car hits it?” My son said, “It’s my fault.” I asked why, and he said,  “Because I shouldn’t have left it in the street.”

Then I asked him if the man in the car has to pay for the bike. My son answered, “No.” I asked him why and he repeated, “Because I shouldn’t have left it in the street.”

I told him good job, that’s what Torts is. He said, “Is that it?” I told him “Yes.” Then he looked real confused and said, “Then why does the book have twelve hundred pages?”


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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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