Here’s a practice problem I distributed to my Torts students; we’ll discuss it at a review session tomorrow.
Intentional Torts Problem
Alexander Pushkin learns that George D’Anthès, who is Pushkin’s next-door neighbor — and husband of Pushkin’s wife’s sister, Catherine Goncharova — is having an affair with Pushkin’s wife, Natalia Goncharova. Pushkin considers fighting a duel with D’Anthès, but suspects that would end badly.
He therefore takes a more modern approach: He puts up a huge billboard at the boundary between their properties, containing the text “George D’Anthes seduced my wife,” and piles manure on the metal walkway at the bottom of the billboard, which of course creates an unpleasant smell. Anticipating the risk of litigation, he also adds a line on the bottom of the billboard saying, “To contribute to the Defense Against Don Juans Fund, go to http://www.ScienceOfTenderPassion.com.” That Web site says nothing about the incident, but lets visitors contribute money.
D’Anthes’s neighbors and business associates see the billboard, which is visible from the street as well as from D’Anthes’s property. As a result, many stop doing business with D’Anthes; in their small social circle, extramarital affairs are viewed as grave wrongs, and they feel it important not to interact with people who engage in such affairs, especially when those people are in a position to influence the upbringing of children. In particular, one neighbor, Eugene Onegin — appalled at D’Anthes’s misbehavior — fires D’Anthes from his job as fencing instructor to Onegin’s children, something Pushkin had hoped would happen.
Litigation ensues. Discuss all the tort claims that may be brought based on these facts, which is to say explain the arguments that can be made for and against liability. Assume the events happen in the state of Blackriver, and that the courts of Blackriver are open to borrowing legal rules from other states. If some important facts are not given, explain what facts you’d need to investigate, and what arguments could be made depending on those facts.
Words of wisdom from Pushkin, by way of translator James E. Falen:
We’ve all received an education
In something somehow, have we not?
So thank the Lord that in this nation
A little learning means a lot.