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CM Law hosts tort expert

Wake Forest chair spends three days on campus

Oct. 13, 2011

BY KRISTEN MOTT

“I have come to believe that U.S. tort law is distinctive from the rest of the world,”said Michael D. Green, an expert in tort law. “I don’t think the rest of the world can learn much from our tort law.”

Green, a visiting scholar at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, was speaking to students, faculty and the local legal community in the Moot Court Room on Oct. 3.

Each year the law school invites a scholar to spend three days at the school to interact with students, faculty and the legal community in Cleveland.

Green serves as the Bess and Walter Williams Distinguished Chair at the Wake Forest University School of Law. He is one of the country’s leading experts on tort law and works as a co-reporter for a publication of the American Law Institute.

Craig Boise, dean of the law school, said that the scholar engages the community with his/her leadership and scholarship.

Green’s lecture revolved around the American system of tort law. Tort law involves wrongdoings and duties owed to others as relief for those who have suffered from harmful acts.

He compared the U.S. tort law with similar laws in other parts of the world. Green explained that according to tort law, it is not only a legal, but also a moral obligation to adhere to duty of care.

Duty of care is a standard of reasonable care while performing acts that could potentially also harm others. Green explained that everyone is expected to owe a duty to everyone else by moral obligation.

Green went on to say that because of this system, the judge often takes the case away from the jury by ruling there is no duty owed. This allows the judge to have the final say in the case, instead of the jury deciding on the details of a case.

“I think when judges use no duty to take away power from a jury, it results in inconsistency in jurisdiction, bewildering statements and court opinions about duty,” Green stated.

A brief question and answer session followed the lecture. One faculty member questioned when duty should be used as a defense in a case. Green commented that it is important to articulate what duty means, and courts should only withdraw duty in extreme cases.

When asked about consistency within the court, Green said that inconsistent outcomes will develop if all cases are handed to a jury.

He cited a case in which five different juries heard the same testimonies during an asbestos case, and the juries were “all over the place” when asked to answer hard questions and provide a verdict.

“That’s inconsistency, and it’s a downside that we face,” Green said.

A reception followed the lecture in the law school’s lobby.

Cleveland State created the Visiting Scholar Program partly through the contributions of Baker Hostetler, a law firm based in Cleveland.

Baker Hostetler made an endowment 22 years ago to the law school which provided merit-based scholarships and the creation of the program.