Clearly I’m teaching the wrong classes. . .

The CNN headline pretty much says it all: “Girl with peanut allergy dies after kiss.” It is proof of my through law-geekiness that my first thought was “that would make a great question for a torts exam!”

Torts finals always seem to involve strange hypotheticals. I still remember my own torts final as a law student — it involved a man who opened his umbrella in the rain, and was struck by lightning.

It’s pretty hard to work a peanut-kiss-death into my Wills final or my Securities Regulation final. (I suppose I could try to work it into some strange hypothetical to test the statutory bar on inheriting from a decedent who is murdered by the devisee, but that would be a stretch. And besides, those exams are already written.).

But if I ever teach torts, I’ll be thinking back to the peanut case — and wondering if I can turn it into a good hypothetical about a “kiss of death.”

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7 Responses

  1. Dave Hoffman says:


    Not to be a downer, but in my opinion the more charitable first thought would probably have been: what a tragedy for the family, and what a horrifying experience for the boyfriend. It’s too easy to see the news as entertainment, especially the “news” on CNN and other like-minded conglomerates.

    My torts final involved very little torts, but a very interesting question about the Shavell punitive damages formula. My answer, as I recall, contained a long footnote about comparative bird-watching in England and the States. Thank you, Jon Hanson, for not failing me!

  2. John Armstrong says:

    Dave: admittedly it is a tragedy, but in the days of collage, post-structuralism, and television “ripped from the headlines”, I don’t think that it’s inappropriate to use it as inspiration.

    You bring up an interesting point about the young man involved, though. At the risk of pushing this towards a philosophy/ethics problem (involving a brain in a vat at the helm of a runaway train, etc.): part a of the question could deal with the family suing for wrongful death, while part b could deal with a possible countersuit for therapy bills for the resultant emotional distress.

  3. Mike says:

    It’s pretty hard to work a peanut-kiss-death into my … Securities Regulation final.

    How about this: Planter’s (or a peanut company that just went public) failed to disclose pending peanut-related lawsuit in its diclosure forms?

  4. John Jenkins says:

    My memory of my first semester torts final is of a person who was “assaulted” by another person telling the first person there was a tiger in the woods when there was no tiger.

  5. That’s a good battery/consent hypo. Does she have to consent to the kiss or to a peanut kiss? Does the kisser have to know that the peanut kiss will be offensive? I like it. (I don’t know what the answer is, but I like the question.)

  6. Kaimi says:

    Good point, Dave. I overspoke — this wasn’t the _first_ thing to come to mind, and I did think “how terrible” and “poor boyfriend.”

    That said, I also almost immediately started wondering about the interesting battery and consent issues Christine notes.

  7. My Torts final did involve a woman who had an allergic reaction to her rescuer’s latex gloves . . . so 1Ls beware, study hard on the any cases you can find on by search lexis for {allergy AND tort! AND Posner OR Hand OR Calebrisi}