Torts Textbooks:

I'll be teaching tort law for the first time this Fall, and would love to hear people's views on what textbooks they liked (and why) or disliked (and why), whether as teachers or students. Let me know, please, with as much detail as possible (both about your law school and the particular things you liked or disliked). Many thanks!

Arthur Best's textbook was among the best texts I used while in law school.
3.30.2009 1:21pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Keeton sargentich and steiner. Usc law school, I took torts in fall 1992.

The reason I like the keeton casebook is that it really gets into the policy rationales behind different tort doctrines.

Full disclosure: I have co-authored a cpouple of papers with one of the editors, gregory keating.
3.30.2009 1:22pm
Robertson/Powers/Anderson/Wellborn is a-ma-zing.
3.30.2009 1:33pm
We used a case 'packet' created by one of the proffesors at my school. Saves on text books, and you can bring sections of the packet as needed to reduce the amount you need to lug around. Also easily customized to the proffesor's teaching. You do however loose all the book commentary, and I imagine it was alot of working the first time the packet was prepared. I have had 4 courses taught using packets prepared by the proffesor, and I've always found it works well.
3.30.2009 1:34pm
Go with your friend Pete Farnsworth's Torts: Cases and Questions. It's designed in a fun way that really brings the subject alive for the students.
3.30.2009 1:47pm
Freddy B. (www):
I second Monty's comment: custom-tailored professor texts have been the best books in my experience. My professor used Prosser's Torts and it was boring, stupid, expensive and altogther too unwieldy.

As a side note, I welcome all VC readers to check out my friends and my law student blog "Blackbook Legal." We've had a similar thread recently about the use of supplements in the "core courses." We hope to do our part answering Prof. Kerr's observation about the death of law student blogging. Please visit; maybe you could even add us to a blog-roll or something...
3.30.2009 1:48pm
A Law Dawg:
My class used Epstein's Torts casebook in 2004-05 and I found it very good.
3.30.2009 1:50pm
Joe McDermott (mail):
1978-79 academic year. Dean Page Keeton's casebook. He was also my professor. Terrific. Did much less to hide the ball than others.
3.30.2009 1:54pm
Here are sample chapters from Farnsworth:
3.30.2009 1:55pm
frankcross (mail):
Well, for a first timer, you should consider Dobbs, because it has far and away the best teachers' manual
3.30.2009 1:56pm
Joe T Guest:
Farnsworth was a good text.

My instructor focused on the analytical side of negligence - causation. The theories of individual torts are easy, how they link together is sort of hard, and the flourishes (inherently dangerous activities, assumption of risk, older stuff about common enemies) are very tricky to fit together without an orderly framework for thinking through a problem. Products liability on the other hand... it struck me as junk public policy rationales supporting junk science and junk logic in the interest of some kind of poorly elucidated social justice theory, at least in the cases that made the most interesting reading in the case book. The case law came across like the a guy standing there in court shouting, "Show me the money!" or maybe some second rate author's reliance on God or aliens to fill holes in the plot where he didn't have any better ideas. Full disclosure: I did some insurance defense work a number of years ago and this colors my perceptions.
3.30.2009 2:00pm
Epstein's is nice. Frankly, if you just teach the law of torts, you'll do fine. At Harvard in my 1L year, only two professors out of seven teaching torts that year actually taught torts. The rest taught various ideological gobbledygook under the guise of teaching torts. Thank goodness for Bar/Bri or else I never would have actually learned most of the basic tort doctrines!
3.30.2009 2:02pm
Steve Donohue (mail) (www):
We used Epstein's and I appreciated that he had both the textbook, which was fairly straightforward, as well as a one-volume treatise that basically tracked the textbook and provided a running commentary on the cases mentioned in the text.
3.30.2009 2:06pm
Torts Yay!:
Epstein, Richard; Cases and Materials on Torts.

Very well written. Some of the reviews I've read noted an economic slant, but at the time I didnt know enough to notice, and I havent gone back to see if the reviews are accurate.

If all case books were as well written as Epstein's casebook then 1st year reading would have been enjoyable.
3.30.2009 2:06pm
theobromophile (www):
I used this one at W&L in 2004.

My professor was one of the authors; in retrospect, I think it made for a better class (as he was very good about integrating all of the material from it into the course). The book itself was fine; logical organisation, explanatory material (and hypos) between the cases.
3.30.2009 2:10pm
Tom W. Bell (mail):
Welcome to Torts! I'm teaching it for the first time, this year, and using Farnsworth &Grady's text. I nearly opted for Epstein's, but decided that my students would respond better to F&G's less theoretical approach.

On the upside, F&G typically offer clear expositions of the black-letter law, a smattering of problems that you can work through in class, and a very good teacher's manual. On the downside, their text has far too many typos (some of them going to important matters such as R. (2) section numbers), neglects some important aspects of California law (forcing me to supplement the text), and was, in my case, poorly made (the binding fell apart).
3.30.2009 2:22pm
DIAMOND for torts, hands down! It cuts the crap, has terrific summary notes after the cases (rather than uber-frustrating open-ended policy questions), and allows you to cover a lot of material without too much reading. If you chose that book, your students will thank you!

- 3L at Berkeley Law
3.30.2009 2:31pm
(cali here)

Oh, and Diamond for torts remains my favorite casebook in law school. Contrast it with Dukeminier for property, which was my least favorite.
3.30.2009 2:33pm
UofC 05 (mail):
I used Epstein for Torts (not with Epstein, he didn't teach it my 1L year) and recall it being reasonably clear and non-painful to read. Up there with Dukeminier &Krier for Property as my favorite 1L textbook. Cali obviously didn't have to use Yeazell's Civil Procedure, which was execrable.
3.30.2009 2:46pm
Steven H (mail):
I think Keeton, Sargentich, and Keating is great. Super clear and well-organized.
3.30.2009 2:47pm
BUSL 2002 (mail):
I would second using Professor Ward Farnsworth's text. I took 1L torts with him in 1999, and although the text may be new, I can only imagine it reflects his teaching structure which I found presented the materials in a digestible but very insightful and thought provoking manner.
3.30.2009 2:51pm
A Law Dawg:

I agree that D&K was a great property textbook, but I liked Yeazell's Civ Pro just fine. What didn't you like about it?
3.30.2009 2:57pm
GMUSL '07 Alum (mail):
I want to join the chorus of those championing Epstein. I wonderful book, very analytical, gives the gold without the dross of the cases. Really shows the historical development of torts in each area of law, and how the wrinkles developed. Then again, as a Mason Law alum, I'm very biased towards Epstein.

We supplemented it with "note cases" that Professor Krauss would write in the board to illustrate the points. As he was one of the best professors I've ever had, I would STRONGLY suggest emailing him for advice. The man is a master.
3.30.2009 3:07pm
We used a red book. I think I liked it.
3.30.2009 3:11pm
I would certainly have liked to try the "case packet" approach for torts. One of the best classes I had in law school was Evidence, taught with a case packet and a fairly slender copy of the annotated rules of evidence. Torts, property, and contracts were all taught using traditional casebooks (Epstein for Torts) and I can count on zero hands the number of times I've opened any of those casebooks since. That's about $350 I spent for crap that sits on my bookshelf and is totally useless. I know, I know, you're paying for the commentary and the editing. Whatever, the commentary obscures more than it illuminates, and the editing isn't worth $350.
3.30.2009 3:16pm
Which ever text you use, you'll need to note changes in the Restatement 3d ed., from the 2d ed. Most are re-numbering and stylistic, but a number are substantive. A lot of states have adopted Restatement 2d ed. provisions as the standards to be applied in their states. As far as I know, Kentucky is the only state so far to adopt Restatement 3d ed. standards.
3.30.2009 3:18pm
I agree with FormerStudent wholeheartedly. Traditional casebooks are expensive, heavy, expensive, boring, expensive, confusing and expensive. I have never opened any traditional casebooks after the class was over, and after about 1/2 way through first semester, I stopped opening them at all. I used Westlaw or Lexis to read the entire case and then would read cases that the assigned case cited. Then I would shepherdize/keycite the case and read several of those cases.

This system used my time much more efficiently than reading lots of unenlightening commentary and, as a bonus, I got better at research much faster than most others in my class.

I noticed no negative effect on my grades - I finished 1st year in the top 10 of my class, and graduated in the top 10%.
3.30.2009 3:33pm
Anything your students can get used and cheap!
3.30.2009 3:45pm
Disgruntled Corps. Student:
I have often wondered if there was any consensus on the "best" and "worst" casebooks in any given subject. As a current 3L I have thought to myself that many professors must be inclined to teach from the text that they used in law school. I have been led to this conclusion for I can see no other reason that any professor would ever use Hamilton and Macey's corporations textbook. It is absolutely the WORST text I have ever had the misfortune of using. Every day I become increasingly shocked by how appallingly edited it is.
3.30.2009 3:46pm
Doug Penrose (mail):
Used Franklin, Tort Law and Alternatives this past fall at Penn. Didn't like the book at all. Extremely long and I thought quite poorly edited. I also wasn't such a huge fan of its emphasis on "alternatives." I think there is value to discussing why the law is how it is and what are other possibilities, but I think this goal is better achieved through a good discussion led by a competent professor. The way this casebook does it is to have a full case for the majority view of the law and then to basically list a bunch of cases that take a different view. It frankly doesn't add much to the discussion. I believe it also threw in some essays, but since these are usually available for free online I would rather not have them in my casebook.
3.30.2009 4:06pm
Ubu Walker (mail):
Why use a traditional torts textbook at all?

For pre-reading, think about assigning "Medieval Justice: Cases and Laws in France, England and Germany, 500-1500" by Hunt Janin. It will help incoming History Majors (and there are lots of them) understand the context of the modern legal system by explaining trespass on the case, etc.

For lecturing on actual cases, pick up your State's civil practice manual in the law library, and pick out some of the state's seminal cases on your own. You can have the students look up the cases on Westlaw or online. They can print them out and bring them to class. Why waste money on a casebook?
3.30.2009 4:32pm
I've used Best &Barnes as well as the Proser text (which is now principally authored by Victor Schwartz).

B &B has two main advantages and two main disadvantages.

Advantages: (1) It is short, and if you're teaching a 1 semester, 4 credit version, rather than a year-long 6 credit course, brevity helps; (2) it very effectively weaves in statutory material. While Torts may yet be the "common law-iest" of the canonical first year courses, even here statutes have made huge inroads.

Disadvantages: (1) It tends to spoon feed a lot of the material. At my law school, this is greatly appreciated by the students, and some of them need the help; at UCLA, perhaps not so much; (2) It is profoundly ahistorical in its presentation of the material.

Prosser's text is simply too long too be useful in a one semester course. It is nonetheless a great text. It could be better at incorporating statutory material. And it benefits from the Blues' superior production values relative to the Reds and Browns. I still assign the first chapter of this text for my opening class when teaching from B &B.

Enjoy Torts. I first taught it due to a manpower crunch on our faculty. It was decidedly not my first love as a law student, but I've come to greatly enjoy teaching it.
3.30.2009 4:43pm
Pointer (mail):
While purely an aesthetic consideration, I would suggest not using the Lexis-Nexis series because the books routinely break down the spine. (This is not just from experience, but also from that of my classmates.)
3.30.2009 4:46pm
Realist Liberal:
I had to take Torts as two semesters. The first semester we used the Diamond book and the second our professor made us switch to the Prosser book (I think only because it was the almight Prosser).

I really liked the Diamond book. It did a good job of explaining the law and the underlying theory of the shifts in Tort law. The Prosser book is incredibly theoretical and way too big. It was also incredibly expensive (of course I would have been annoyed at buying a book for $20 considering we already had one).

I know people who used the Farnsworth book and they really liked it. The biggest complaint I heard (which was mentioned earlier) was that it is riddled with typos.
3.30.2009 4:55pm
UofC 05 (mail):
Law Dawg,
Yeazell excelled at writing post-case questions that had little, if any, apparent relation to the case that had just apparent and to which the answer was not only not apparent but couldn't be found anywhere, sometimes including the teacher's manual. Then again, answering questions wouldn't have had very much in keeping with the rest of his book. I also thought it was poorly edited and boring. For the record, I had Epstein for Civ Pro II and he was as dismissive of the book as we students.

I think D&K is the only textbook I've opened since passing the bar, and that for only one issue.
3.30.2009 4:56pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
We used Epstein and it was fine.

But the text book used is one of the least important part of teaching law, especially torts. It's the professor that matters in the end. A good professor could teach the course well with a few dog-eared handouts. A bad professor couldn't teach it well with a gilded text book lovingly illustrated by monks who served as clerks to the court that decided Fletcher v. Rylands.

I was honored to have a most excellent professor, John Teeter, teach me torts. A more interesting, impassioned, and skillful educator I have never seen.
3.30.2009 5:20pm
Prosser, Wade &Schwartz (now with Kelly and Partlett). Wide margins (my favorite casebook yet, aesthetically speaking), fine sense of humor (Plaintiff knew that he was driving toward a railroad track; he did not know that he was engaged in a race that would end in a tie (paraphrased from my faulty memory)), and comprehensive notes (sometimes too comprehensive, perhaps). Also, as someone said above, it's quite a bit too long for a single semester.
3.30.2009 5:51pm
LM (mail):
Doesn't anyone use Posner any more, or is it just that no one thinks it's worth recommending? I found it pretty entertaining to watch the most knee-jerk of my fellow liberal classmates convict our professor of troglodytism for assigning it. I also remember it being a bit smaller and lighter than the usual West fare, which was a plus.
3.30.2009 6:08pm
I used Epstein's Torts book my 1L year at BU (fall 2006). I found the book straightforward and thought the progression through the various materials was useful as a teaching tool - my professor followed the book almost cover to cover, instead of skipping around like many law profs, and I thought this really made the material clearer.

I will, however, add my voice to a couple of comments made earlier in the thread: first, the professor matters more than the book unless the book is truly atrocious; and second, your students will thank you if you teach them torts rather than economics theory, public choice theory, string theory, or really any theory. I enjoyed torts a great deal, at least in part because my professor made a point of finishing each case by teaching us the black letter law it laid down - as opposed to my criminal law class, which would have been better titled "theories of societal morality."
3.30.2009 7:09pm
GainesvilleGuest (mail):
In my 1L torts class we used Torts: The Civil Law of Reparation for Harm Done by Wrongful Act, by Jospeh W. Little and Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky. It provided cases that illustrated the concepts really well, and it did not bogged down in too much technicality.
3.30.2009 7:15pm
JC (mail):
I would like to second Robertson/Powers/Anderson/Wellborn. Definitely the best that I've seen for an intro torts class
3.30.2009 7:59pm
I agree with everything said about Epstein.
3.30.2009 8:31pm
LonghornGuest (mail):
Another vote for Robertson/Powers/Anderson/Wellborn. The songs Robertson writes about the cases are as good as the book itself.
3.30.2009 8:44pm
Pendulum (mail):
We used Henderson, 8th edition. It was reasonably good.

Given that my instructor could not teach, Joseph Glannon's examples and explanations provided the basis of my torts understanding.
3.30.2009 9:31pm
I used Goldberg, Sebok &Zipursky at Michigan and it was outstanding. The notes were exceptionally informative and the cases not over edited. You generally can't miss when using Aspen texts.
3.30.2009 9:39pm
A dissent on Goldberg, Sebok, &Zipursky. I used it once when the course was getting stale for me through repeated use of the same text. Big mistake. Extremely interesting when I was reviewing new books to use, but it did not teach well in practice.

My beef with it was the organization -- considering each element of negligence completely before moving on to the next. Thus, the chapter on "Duty" included all the special duty and no duty rules that have been devloped over the years. Thus, the rules for premises liability, a chapter unto themselves in most texts, are merely a (very) cursory piece of the "duty" chapter. Most texts first cover the four (I would say 5) elements for run of the mine negligence cases, then go back and discretely cover the "special cases".

While I understand the authors' rationale for their choice, I didn't care for it in practice.
3.30.2009 10:08pm
Brian Kalt:
I use Prosser, and cover about the first 2/3 in one four-credit class. I like it because it is comprehensive and clear. When I taught it the first time nine years ago, I liked the teacher's manual. I have stayed with it because I think that students who do the reading can get the basics, leaving enough time in class for whatever tangents they or I would like to pursue.
3.30.2009 10:55pm
jackson macintosh (mail):
i recommend epstein. the treatise that accompanies the book is well worth it, too. of course i was being taught by epstein, but the writing is very good, and i think it would be valuable in anyone's hands.
3.30.2009 10:59pm
1L Student:
This sounds petty, but I prefer any book that is from Foundation Press (Blue Books) because the books are so easy to read and it is easy to write in the margins. Aspen (Red Books) have small font, terrible type, and small margins. I am going to need glasses by the end of the semester. It might seem silly, but I hear more complaints from fellow students about reading in books that are difficult to read. And the Red books are the worst. (I've never had one of the brown colored case books, so I can't comment - and the Lexis ones are ok.)
3.30.2009 11:30pm
Stay away from "R. Weaver, J. Bauman, J. Cross, A. Klein, E. Martin &P. Zwier: Torts: Cases, Materials, Problems &Exercises." The second edition was a disaster, and the third edition (coming shortly) doesn't bode well.

Case names are misspelled; the holdings are edited out; questions are foolish. Probably best to stay away from anything associated with the name Zwier.
3.31.2009 12:10am
nswanson30 (mail):
I'm currently a 1L at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, MN--my Torts professor uses "The Common Law Process of Torts" by Marshall &Weissbrodt. I think it's a good casebook in that sets out the general principles, concepts, and law in the initial cases in each section and then marks out the exceptions and changing doctrines in subsequent cases. Additionally, the discussion questions are very practical, spur good class discussions, and drive home civil procedure concepts as well.
3.31.2009 8:57am
BZ (mail):
Yikes! I feel old.

Prof. Seidelson at GWU night school used Prosser, but that wasn't really the point. He gave us, literally, thousands of case notes, after which we diligently reviewed and read the cases (in study groups, since there were too many to handle solo), only to find that he had accurately and completely summarized them in class. So, in addition to highlighting my text in multiple colors, we had all this outside reading. As a student I was miffed that he had wasted our time, but as a lawyer, I now realize that he had trained us very well in a short period of time in case analysis and interpretation. Essential skills for a working lawyer. HOWEVER, the fact that this was the point of the method could have been repetitively stressed, even in a 1L class. In my case, it finally sank in during a later class when a local prosecutor visited and, as described by the professor, "whipped cases out of his quiver like arrows." Yup, exactly what is done.

So the question is whether you intend to teach the law of torts, or the practice of torts law, or some combination?
3.31.2009 9:14am
Tom Grey at Stanford (1984-5) taught us from the Marc Franklin textbook. Franklin's text was OK so far as I could tell as a 1L, but Grey was bit too flippant and dismissive of classical reasoning, attributing all differences of opinion to political biases. He had the same subjectively cavalier attitude towards grading the final exam.
3.31.2009 10:11am
DiverDan (mail):
I have no idea which is the best Case Book, but I do have a suggestion for how Torts ought to be taught. I did very well in Law School (many long years ago) - I finished in the top 3 of my class with a magna cum laud degree, and Torts was far and away my worst subject and the class I hated the most. My grades in the two semesters of Torts cost me a summa on my diploma. My torts professor taught torts about the same way that most Personal Injury Plaintiffs' lawyers practice it nowadays - throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. To hell with logic or analysis, the more claims (even really ridiculous claims) you can come up with for any factual situation, and the more Defendants you can drag in, the better grade you got, even if most claims were ridiculous on their face, and even if your response was completely devoid of analysis. Causation was taught as if it were an inconvenient and meaningless obstacle to getting a big jury verdict, and the professor gave almost no consideration to defenses or concepts like contributory negligence, comparative negligence, or privilege. OK, I can see why "issue spotting" is an important part of that class, but leave a little room, at least, for the importance of analytical thinking.
3.31.2009 12:31pm
Christine Hurt (mail) (www):
I have used Vetri, Levine, Vogel and Finley four times now, and there are some things about it that I like very much. However, I chose it because it seemed more objective to the hew and cry of "tort reform" and the hypos seemed more modern and interesting -- same-sex couples, hate speech discussion. That being said, I've grown a little weary of it. (And yes, it is a Lexis book, and we've had at least one batch that fell apart within the semester.) Some semester I may switch to Best and Barnes or another book.

Also, I love the Tort Stories and recommend it heartily.
3.31.2009 2:16pm
We used "The Torts Process" by Henderson, Pearson, Kysar and Siliciano; because Kysar taught the class.

Didn't really like the book at all. I've never liked the Aspen Publishers (red) books, the pages are far too thin (highlight bleeds right through like crazy) and the text formatting isn't very good and is difficult to read.
3.31.2009 3:15pm
Finance lawyer (mail):
The Nobel committee rather liked this one:

Coase, RH, "The Problem of Social Cost", 3 Journal of Law and Economics 1 (1960).

The Nobel committee members aren't lawyers, of course, so their opinion hardly counts. Worse, the author admitted that it wasn't rigorous, indeed, that it was a bit sketchy.

But it seems to have generated some subsequent commentary. Some judge named Posner seems to think it might have some relevance.

Seriously, anyone who teaches torts without assigning that article should be drummed out of the profession. It's alarmingly accessible, even to law students.
3.31.2009 5:15pm
Comrade E.B. Misfit (mail) (www):
Henderson was used in my torts class (CWRU-1995). But because it was the first semester my first year, and I had been out of serious classrooms for almost 20 years, I was rather shell-shocked that semester. I seem to have blocked much of that time out. :)
3.31.2009 8:38pm
John msd (mail):
Arthur Best's textbook.
It nicely explains the purpose of each case for its place in its section of the textbook. Understanding the purpose of each case, made the overall material easier to understand.
Personally I find the "hiding of the ball" done by some texts pointless, counterproductive, and somewhat evidence of laziness on the part of the editor. There are better ways to get people to think "legally" than simply obscuring what a case is meant to illustrate.
3.31.2009 11:18pm
John msd (mail):
Arthur Best's textbook.
It nicely explains the purpose of each case for its place in its section of the textbook. Understanding the purpose of each case, made the overall material easier to understand.
Personally I find the "hiding of the ball" done by some texts pointless, counterproductive, and somewhat evidence of laziness on the part of the editor. There are better ways to get people to think "legally" than simply obscuring what a case is meant to illustrate.
3.31.2009 11:18pm

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