I recently picked up 120 Torts and Criminal Procedure examinations, which I must grade before the holidays. In a related story, this will be my last guest-blogger post on the site. Thanks to Gerard, Frank, and my other hosts for their hospitality, and to the readers of this blog for their patience. It’s been fun, at least for me.
I’ll wrap up with another Paul Harvey “here’s the rest of the story” narrative, which may be useful to those of you who teach Torts. (The rest of you will probably want to skip this one.) This entry will discuss Hammontree v. Jenner, a 1971 California Court of Appeal decision.
The Hammontree court rejected the plaintiffs’ contention that strict liability, instead of negligence, should govern a tort suit stemming from a driver’s unanticipated seizure behind the wheel. Unlike Summers v. Tice, which I discussed in a previous post, Hammontree has not cast a substantial precedential shadow. The appellate opinion is short, and gives little sign that the court considered the issue presented to be especially difficult.
The significance of the Hammontree decision derives from its leadoff spot in Franklin, Rabin & Green’s casebook Tort Law and Alternatives, which I use in my Torts class. (I’ve spoken to both the defense attorney at trial in Hammontree and the defense attorney on appeal; both were quite surprised that the case found its way into a textbook.) The authors leverage the case in a variety of ways, using it to introduce the distinction between strict liability and negligence, along with themes such as legal ethics, the mechanics of a tort case, and the nature of precedent.
Last year, I went down to Los Angeles court archives and dug up copies of the original court filings in Hammontree for the use of my students, and others. If anyone is interested in these documents (I find it quite helpful to show novice one-L students what a complaint, answer, motion for summary judgment, etc., look like, which goes a long way toward demystifying these documents), I’ve given them to Christopher Robinette over at the TortsProf blog, who kindly has posted them here.
The documents didn’t contain any big surprises, but they did harbor a few facts that may be interesting and useful to those of you who teach the case. Now that I’ve scared off (or bored to death) 99 percent of this blog’s readers, I’ll explain to the hardy few who remain, after the jump.