WESTERN STATE UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE OF LAW
Professor Carole J. Buckner
Telephone: (714) 459-1133
The Torts Process (6th ed.), by Henderson, Pearson and Siliciano.
Understanding Torts (2d ed.), by Diamond, Levine and Madden.
Expert Learning for Law Students, by Michael Hunter Schwartz
CPS Response Pad. (Follow the separate instructions posted on the WSU website and the instructions contained in your CPS package
to register your CPS pad prior to the first day of class.) The class key for Torts I is I20839A282.
A tort is a civil wrong, other than a breach of contract, for which the law provides a remedy for damages caused by a wrongdoer (also
known as a tortfeasor).
Torts is a two-semester course. Torts I is a three-unit course that introduces the student to two basic types of tort claims. The first is
the suit for intentionally caused harm. The intentional torts that we will cover include battery, assault, and false imprisonment. The
second type of tort claim is for damages caused by negligence. Law suits resulting from unintended harm, such as auto accidents and
medical malpractice, are common examples of negligence claims. In addition to examining intentional torts and negligence, we will
determine whether the tortfeasor has any privileges or defenses that might absolve her from liability for her conduct.
In Torts II, which is also a three-unit course, we will continue our introduction to tort law, including actions for injuries caused by
abnormally dangerous activities, defective products, trespass and nuisances, defamation, and invasion of privacy.
The Torts I course has a number of objectives. First, it will introduce you to the substantive legal rules that courts and legislatures
have developed over time in attempting to assess responsibility for losses suffered by individuals in various contexts. Second, the
course will encourage you to critically examine these legal rules and help you to understand the economic, social and political
considerations behind them. Third, the course will sharpen your analytical skills, especially those of case reading and applying legal
rules to actual controversies. Fourth, Torts I will assist you in mastering legal writing, especially test-taking skills. Torts I will also
require that you apply some of the basic lawyering skills that you are learning in the Professional Skills courses. These skills include
legal analysis, problem solving, and confronting ethical dilemmas.
Cell Phones, Pagers, and the Internet
Please disable cell phones and pagers when in class. You may bring a laptop computer to class and use it for taking notes, but you
may not be on the Internet, play games, etc. Students who violate this policy will forfeit the privilege of using a laptop.
Preparation for Class/Homework:
In order to be fully prepared for class, I recommend that you do the reading in the following order: first, read the Understanding Torts
assignment to get an overview of the material. Next read the assignment for The Torts Process and brief the cases (as indicated
below) and write and answer to each Problem included in the reading; next prepare rule deconstructions as discussed below.
For each of the cases in The Torts Process, you should bring a case brief to class with you. (See ELLS, Chapter 9). The brief
1. An understanding of how the case fits in with the topic of study;
2. An understanding of the roles of the various parties in the case;
3. A summary of the relevant material facts of the case (i.e., those facts that are significant to the opinion, and which focus on how
the parties became legal antagonists);
4. A summary of the procedural facts of the case (i. e., what occurred at the trial court and appellate court levels in the case);
5. A summary of the issue(s) in the case; and
6. A summary of the holding in the case (i.e., a synthesis of the rules of law, the key facts and the court’s rationale for its decision).
In addition, you should write an answer to the Problems included in the reading assignment in The Torts Process and bring the
written answers to the problems to class with you. In addition, you should “deconstruct” these rules, (i.e., break down the rules into
their constituent parts, understand the relationships between those parts and the definitions of the terms for each part). (See ELLS,
Chapter 12). You should also prepare a paraphrase (in your own words) of the rule and/or doctrine you are studying. You should
construct a graphic organizer1 and/or a mnemonic device2 to help you encode the information you are learning for later recall. Key
parts of the rules should be memorized. (See ELLS, Chapter 12). Bring your rule deconstructions, graphic organizers and/or
mnemonic devices to class with you.
Please be prepared to discuss all of the assigned materials, including your case brief, your deconstructions of the rules and
your answers to all questions in the assigned materials when you attend class. Please bring your case brief, rule
deconstructions and answers to questions in the assigned reading to class with you. If you appear to be having difficulty
answering basic questions about the material, you may be asked whether you are fully prepared. Being fully prepared means
that you completed ALL of the assigned reading and homework, and that you are familiar enough with the material to
participate in a meaningful way in class. If you have not done this, then you are unprepared. If you are unprepared, I will
lower your grade by 0.1. If you wish to challenge this determination, you must turn in to me all homework materials, in
writing, at the end of the same class session for which I mark you unprepared, before I leave the classroom. Note that this
requirement may not be met at any time other than immediately after class and only by turning in to me a hard copy (paper) and
not a computer version of your homework. Students who are unprepared will have their grade lowered 0.1 each time they are
unprepared. Please note that in the event you are unprepared, I may call on you in the very next class and in the event that
you are again unprepared, I will continue to reduce your grade by .1 on each occasion. My intention in establishing these rules
is to reinforce the concepts that lawyers need to be well prepared in order to perform competently and law students need to be
well prepared in order to understand and participate in class discussions.
PLEASE NOTE: There is a difference between being unprepared and being unable to answer a question. I expect you to stay
sufficiently ahead of the class in your preparation (reading and homework) to insure your readiness to participate in each class. The
assertion that you did not anticipate the class getting so far, that you read the assignment too long ago to remember it, or you
A graphic organizer is a visual representation of knowledge arranging textual information into a graphical pattern or structure and can take the form of a
comparison chart (showing similarities and differences), a concept map (showing a central concept with supporting examples or characteristics), a hierarchy map
(showing the main concept and subconcepts underneath the main concept) or a flow chart (showing concepts arranged in sequential or chronological order). For
more specifics on graphics organizers, see http://www.loyno.edu/~dciolino/Classes/GraphicOrganizers.htm and http://www.graphic.org/goindex.html.
A mnemonic device can take the form of single use coding, (i.e., using the first letter of each word in a set of words to remember the list); the pegword method,
(i.e., arbitrarily associating with rhyme each item in a list with a sequence of numbers); (3) method of loci (in which the learner scans a familiar room and
associates each item with an element of the room’s decoration); and (4) keyword technique (associating matched concepts with a series of bizarre images. I will
post to the course website further information regarding the creation and use of mnemonic devices.
completed some, but not all of, the assignment will NOT excuse a failure to be fully prepared for class. Nor will these types of
assertions serve as any justification to be fully prepared when appearing as a lawyer in court. I will not reduce your grade simply
because you incorrectly answer a question unless I believe that your answer reflects inadequate preparation.
You must memorize the key portions of the rules and the holdings for all of the cases we are reading and be able to apply this
information on examinations. (See ELLS, Chapter 13).
I will assign your grade based on the following components:
Course participation (in class, online and via CPS) – 20%
Midterm examination - 20%
Final exam - 60 %
Using your CPSRF response pad, you will answer questions posed in class. You must be present and have your response pad with you
in working order in each class in order to participate. These questions will include multiple choice questions including hypotheticals
from the assigned reading. Correct responses will be credited toward the participation component of your grade in the course. If you
are absent from class, or do not have your response pad with you in working order, you will not receive any of the points available for
participation through CPS for that class session, and you cannot make up the CPS points missed in any manner. Scoring poorly on
these in-class questions may indicate that you are not well-enough prepared for class, and will be taken into consideration in
connection with your participation grade for the course. I am interested in your comments and thoughts on the use of CPS, and I
welcome postings to the webpage Course Journal in the Discussion Forum regarding CPS.
Course Blog and Podcasts
The URL for the blog site through which you will be able to access Podcasts for the class is as follows:
http://professor_buckner.classcaster.org/blog/ Through this blog, you will be able to access recorded sessions of the class and weekly
reviews of material covered in class. Please note that each class will be recorded and posted to the blog in an MP3 file. In addition,
under the terms of the CALI Podcasting project, I will record a 10-15 minute weekly review of what we covered that week in the
course. You can listen to these MP3 files via computer or download them to an MP3 player or burn them to a CD. You do not need
to re-listen to the entire class, although you are welcome to do so, particularly if you missed an entire class session, for example, due
to illness. However, you may wish to use the recordings to review any material that was unclear to you, or the presentation of material
related to any CPS questions you missed in class. You can do this by noting for yourself the approximate time in the class session at
which you became confused, and jumping to that portion of the recording. I am interested in your thoughts about the effectiveness of
the Podcasts, and welcome comments on the webpage Course Journal regarding the Podcasts, or blog replies.
The midterm examination will be a closed book, one and one-half hour examination, which may consist of multiple choice and essay
questions. The final examination will be a three hour exam that will consist of multiple choice and essay questions.
To encourage group and class participation, including online discussion, I may adjust the final course grade for participation as
Extraordinary participation: I will adjust one-tenth upward (e.g., from a 3.0 to a 3.1) the grades of students whose
participation is consistently superior.
Inferior participation: I will adjust one-tenth downward (e.g., from a 3.0 to a 2.9) the grades of students whose participation
is consistently inferior.
Attendance is extremely important to your success in this course. I will pass around the attendance sheet at the beginning of each
session. You must be in your seat at the time class begins; if you are late, you will be marked absent, although you may still attend the
class, and I encourage you to do so that you do not miss the material covered. There is no grace period for arrival to the class. It is
your responsibility to be sure that you sign the attendance sheet for each class. If you do not sign the attendance roster, you are absent.
IF YOU ARE MARKED ABSENT FOR MORE THAN FOUR CLASSES DURING THE SEMESTER, I WILL
WITHDRAW YOU FROM THE CLASS. If you are marked absent from class, you will have the responsibility of obtaining the
information from the missed class from the other members of your group and will not be permitted to make-up a quiz or examination
administered during the missed class. You alone are responsible for keeping tack of your attendance; you will not receive a
warning that you have reached the allowed number of absences. If you miss class you will are required to listen to the class
recording off of the CALI blog.
Seating and Groups
In order to promote cooperative learning among students, all students will work in assigned groups which will be based on their
structured study groups (SSG). Students not participating in the SSG program will be placed in a group by the instructor at the
beginning of the course. If you are not participating in the SSG program please see Professor Buckner to find out your assigned
group. As soon as the SSGs are assigned, students will sit with the members of your group so that half of your group is in one row
and the other half of the group is in the next row back, in order to facilitate group communications during class. Larger SSGs may be
broken into smaller SSGs for the purposes of this course. I will distribute a seating chart at the beginning of the second week of class.
Please print the name you wish me to call you in the space reflecting the seat you have chosen for the semester. I will drop from the
class all students whose names do not appear on the chart.
During almost every class session, we will do some group work. To maximize the benefits of working in groups, student preparation
and participation are essential. During group time, in addition to their participation as group members, four students will perform
specific group leadership functions, as follows: (1) Facilitator: lead discussion, facilitate participation and check for understanding of
all group members; (2) Reporter: keep notes of group discussion and post any group work on course WebPage, as appropriate; (3)
Spokesperson: speak for the group to the class as a whole; (4) Monitor: assess group dynamics (understanding, participation,
decorum) and complete Group Report (see page 11) every three weeks, based on group input. For the first week of class, these roles
will be determined alphabetically, on the basis of each group member’s last name. Students will rotate roles each week so that each
student will perform all roles over the course of the semester.
Course Web Page
The course will have its own web page on the Lexis-Nexis Blackboard platform. The page is designated as “Torts I – Buckner.” You
will need a Lexis ID number to access the web page. To access the web page, go to http://webcourses.lexisnexis.com. The password
is “Buckner.” Only students enrolled in the course are permitted to participate in the course webpage. The primary uses of the
web page will include online quizzes, posting group work, rule statements, hypotheticals, questions, mnemonic devices and graphic
organizers on the discussion board for review and comment. The course web journal will also serve as a means of reporting on the
effectiveness of your learning throughout the course. The course web page will also include Course Documents, including practice
exams and other materials. You are required to make at least 5 postings on the course web page (either individually or with your
group) over the course of this semester. Your failure to do so will be taken into consideration in evaluating your participation in the
course. Three postings must be completed prior to the midterm, and the remaining two must be completed within one week after the
last class day. Group postings must contain the full names of all group members who in fact contributed to the work. You must also
sign up for the webpage using a current email address that you check regularly, because I do send email via the webpage from time to
time and you are responsible for receiving all email notifications regarding the course. Postings to the course webpage may include
any of the following: (1) detailed answers to any of the questions contained in the assigned readings, (2) rule deconstructions of any
of the rules we are studying; (3) original examples of the legal concepts we are studying; (4) original, thoughtful questions about the
legal concepts we are studying; (5) original hypotheticals raising any of the issues being studied; (6) answers to other students’
questions, or critiques regarding other students’ hypotheticals; (6) mnemonic devices concerning any of the legal concepts we are
studying or critiques of mnemonic devices posted by other students; (7) graphic organizers addressing any of the legal concepts we
are studying, or critiques of other students’ graphic organizers; (8) journal-type reflections on your study in this course or on any of
the learning strategies used in the class (including group work, CPS techniques for learning materials, use of case briefs, outlines,
flowcharts, mnemonic devices and graphic organizers).
Office hours, appointments and E-mail:
Students may use office hours to address their concerns regarding the course materials. You may attend office hours individually or in
groups. You may also drop by my office any time. You may also send an email to me and request an appointment during office hours
or at another time. You may also feel free to speak with me before and after class. You may also submit questions by email and I will
make every effort to respond promptly.
Readings are in The Torts Process (TP), Understanding Torts (UT) and Expert Learning for Law Students (ELLS).
Week Topics and Assignments
1 Introduction to torts; the role of appellate courts in
the creation of tort law; case briefing and analysis;
process of adjudication in torts cases; battery, TP 1-12,
Follow the case reading and briefing procedures set forth in ELLS Chapter 9.
2 Understanding the elements of a tort
cause of action; relating cases to statutes;
battery (cont.), TP 22-25, 28-32, 653-654.
Begin outlines using organizational strategies set forth in ELLS Chapter 12
3 Assault, TP 655-657 (omit Read v. Coker); UT 10-15;
false imprisonment, TP 657-665 (omit Sindle case);
Begin memorization using strategies in ELLS Chapter 13.
4 Privileges – consent, TP 38-39, 56-65; UT 33-37.
ELLS Chapter 16, Preparing for Law School Exams
5 Privileges – self-defense, TP 65-70; UT 38-40;
defense of others and defense of property,
TP 78-86; UT 40-44.
6 Vicarious liability, TP 135-143; UT 231-233;
7 Midterm examination; introduction to negligence; the.
reasonable person standard, TP 147-151, 155-160;
8 Special rules governing the duty of care - negligence per
se and custom, TP 175-185, 187-191; UT 74-78, 93-101.
9 Modification of the general standard of care in special
cases, TP 217-222, 229-236; UT 145-158, 118-127.
10 Causation in fact; TP 101-107, 116-121,
131-134 ; UT 201-212.
11 Res ipsa loquitur, TP 203-211, UT 82-91;
proximate cause, TP 257-269 ; UT 213-228
12 Proximate cause (cont), TP 272-280, 284-286.
13 Proximate cause (cont.) TP 287-293.
14 Proximate cause (cont.); course wrap-up and review.
15 Reading week
16 Final examination
Group Monitor Report Week # _____ Group # _____________
Group members3: Preparation for class/discussion4 Participation in class discussion5
Describe group participation inside/outside of class:
Describe group accountability for members’ learning:
Describe group dynamics:
Group monitor _____________________________
Please list names and designate which students served as Facilitator, Reporter, Monitor and Spokesperson for the period
Please describe each member’s preparation for the week.
Please describe each member’s participation for the week.