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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Saturday, December 20, 2003
Unwinding after Exams

Typically after exams, I enjoy watching Italian horror films. It is a good way to relax and not think about the law. However, after Civ Pro I watched Pieces (dir. Juan Piquer Simon, OK, it's Spanish, but it has the type of bad dialogue and incongrous plot that I like) and I found myself listing possible instances of negligence (on the part of the characters, not the director) and who could sue whom in anticipation of my torts final. In the film, a chainsaw murderer is loose on the campus of a college that looks a lot like Harvard, he steals body parts to assemble a jigsaw puzzle, but the dean wants to keep a lid on it "Do you know what would happen if this ever got out?" (I don't know who was responsible for continuity or plausibility.) The scene that starts the mayhem is a coed on a skateboard who collides with some glaziers who are delivering a big mirror, but who are parked just around the corner so no one can see them unload until the last possible moment. The glaziers are liable for where they parked, the employers of the glaziers are vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees committed within the scope of their employment. The coed is contributorily negligent for not jumping off the skateboard, and she might be negligent per se by skating on campus. She might have been wearing a walkman (it was 1983, afterall), and the coincidence of two forms of new technology might weigh against her.

This type of analysis doesn't serve well for other branches of the law. Take for example contracts: it is rare that anyone makes a pact with the devil in any of these films (those tend to be more German), but in such cases, I think there might be an open and shut case of unconscionability, both procedural and substantive, even though courts do not normally inquire into the adequacy of consideration (seven years of the good life in exchange for an eternity in hell). But Roger Coreman's Masque of the Red Death bears closer scrutiny. There Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) made a pact with the devil, and I think he felt he was on fairly equal terms going into it. I'll have to see the film again.

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