Using Precedent

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  • 1. Common Law Legal System Using Precedent & Legal Reasoning
  • 2. ReviewRead the famous Carbolic Smoke Ball Case a copy can be found on the class websiteBriefly summarize the most important facts ofthe case.Summarize the companys defense.Find the ratio decidendi or holding of the case remember, we are looking for the rule of law upon which the decision is based.Give an example of obiter dicta form the case a rule of law unimportant to the decision of the case.
  • 3. The Development of Case Law
  • 4. PrecedentThe legal principle or rule created by a courtwhich guides judges in subsequent cases withsimilar issues or facts.Sometimes called AuthorityTo serve as precedent for a pending case, a priordecision must have a similar question of law andfactual situation.
  • 5. Distinguishingidentifying aspects of a previous decision thatwould make inappropriate the use of its ratio inthe present case Facts are too different Rationale is not the sameSometimes this means narrowing the ratio/holdingof a case to its fact-based result, referred to as‘limiting a case to its facts’.
  • 6. Non-Legal Example: The GrocerGrocer places apples in store front window hopingto attract customers.Grocer places potato in the back of the storebecause he thinks they wont draw customers intothe store and thus limited window space should notbe wasted on them.Grocer leaves. Employee realizes he forgot to askGrocer where lemon should go.How should we go about trying to answer thisquestions?
  • 7. Things to ConsiderIs there really a “correct” answer here?What is the “issue”?Is there a general standard (“policy”) that the grocerhas applied to what should appear in the window?What does the employee have at his disposal to helphim decide where to put the tomato?Is this really enough to make a good decision? Isthere something missing?
  • 8. Courts: A Little ReviewAppellate ReviewMajority OpinionsConcurring OpinionsDissenting Opinions
  • 9. Common Law Legal Systems Legal Reasoning
  • 10. Deductive v. Inductive ReasoningDeductive Inductive moves from the moves from the general to the particular to the particular. general. takes a general premise gathers observations in and deduces particular the form of premises, conclusions. then it reasons fromExample premises to a general All apples are fruit. conclusion. All fruits grow on Example trees. See next slide Therefore all apples grow on trees.
  • 11. Inductive Reasoning ExampleAre potato chips very healthy? (Issue)Potato chips are high in fat (Example – specific tochips).Foods high in fat are not very healthy (Rule –general to all foods that are high in fat).Potato chips are not very healthy (Conclusion)
  • 12. Case Law ReasoningPrior cases (precedent) are used to predict, explainor justify the outcome of an undecided case.NOTE – this is also referred to as analogicalreasoning and is a form of deductive reasoning.EXAMPLE – man sues ferry company for losinghis luggage on an overnight trip. No case law or statutes concerning lost luggage on ferries, but . . . . .
  • 13. Similar CasesThe Hotel Case The Train Case Hotel proprietor was Train found not liable found liable for for passengers lost guests stolen luggage. luggage. Despite fact that Contract of passenger “rented” hospitality involved space to sleep, court keeping guests found contract was luggage safe. primarily for travel, not lodging.
  • 14. Analogy: Using Precedentthe judge chooses some non-identical features ofthe precedent as being sufficiently similar to thecurrent case to warrant the same outcome. NOTE: we are not so much talking about stare decisis. The question here isnt really whats binding, but what past cases can help the judge decide the current case.
  • 15. Characteristics of Analogical ReasoningFacts play an important role. They are used to both draw analogies to past cases and distinguish past cases from the current one.It said that decisions using this reasoning arenarrow: “the law develops case by case, the Court in each case deciding so much as is necessary to dispose of the case before it.” Whereas cases using inductive reasoning are said to create broader propositions of law.
  • 16. Revising/NarrowingCarroll v. U.S. (1925) Agnello v. U.S. (1925) Car: House: ● mobile ● not mobile ● low privacy expectation ● high privacy expectation ● no warrant required ● warrant required California v. Carney (1985) Motor Home (RV): ● Fully mobile ● higher expectation of privacy than car ● RULING: Warrant NOT required
  • 17. Case SynthesisUsually one rule from one case is not enough todecide the new facts in front of you.This is a process of bringing to together generalpropositions to create a rule (form of inductivereasoning)GOAL - make a reliable prediction (memo) orconvincing arguments (brief) about how the lawapplies to a new set of facts.
  • 18. Case Synthesis: The GrocerGreen Apple – placed in front because of its vibrantcolor.Banana – despite vibrant color, placed in back ofstore because of grocer custom that anything placedin window must last for at least a week and abanana will rot within the week due to sun light.Orange – Goes in back because only something thatcan be eaten immediately without any preparationgoes in the front.Eggplant – Goes in the back because it is not a fruit.
  • 19. Suppose that your client has been sued under a law that reads: “If a dog injures aperson without provocation, then the dog’s owner must pay the medical expensesof the injured person.” Your client informs you that his dog Spot bit Timmy Jonesafter Timmy inadvertently stepped on the dog’s tail causing the dog to yelp inpain. Your client wants to know if he has to pay Timmy’s doctor bills.Relevant Case Summaries:➢ Smith v. Albano: A delivery boy threw a newspaper over thick bushes and hit a sleeping dog on the other side. The dog ran after the boy and bit his leg. The judge held that the dog was not provoked and, therefore, the owner must pay the medical expenses.➢ Barnett v. Rosen: A dog was barking in front of the plaintiff’s home, so he went over and hit the dog with a stick to get him to stop. The dog then bit the plaintiff’s arm. The court held that the plaintiff provoked the dog and, therefore, the owner is not required to pay the plaintiff’s doctor bills.➢ Matthews v. Donaldson: A girl threw a stone at her neighbor’s dog, but missed and did not hit the dog. The dog chased the girl and bit her arm. The judge held that the girl provoked the dog and, therefore, the owner is not required to pay the girl’s medical expenses.
  • 20. Create a Decision ChartCase Key facts Holding – Provocation?Smith Yes or NoBarnett Yes or NoMatthews Yes or No