Posted May 15, 2020. To settle a pandemic-related financial crisis at UMass Dartmouth, law faculty are not receiving research compensation in summer 2020. I will be away from my desk, May 16 to August 15. Blog posts will be sparse, and I will not receive email. On the upside, summer 🌞! If you need to reach me, please send a message through the faculty assistants’ office (Ms. Cain and Ms. Rittenhouse). Stay thirsty.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Teachable torts, Rugby World Cup edition: When battery exceeds consent in sport

More than once over the years, I've received student-evaluation feedback complaining that my use of sport cases and hypotheticals in 1L Torts is detrimental to students not interested in sport.  Now I explain to the class in advance why we do it.

Torts is about deriving the rule of law from what the enlightenment philosophers termed our "social contract."  The sport field is a brilliant place to test out tort law, because it's a place where the social contract is most unusually suspended.  If your office workmate punches you in front of the copier, you'll consider suing her for battery.  Meanwhile, you'll most likely swallow your wounded pride when she takes you down on the soccer pitch.  Understanding the difference between the two cases is what tort law is all about.

In that vein—and in honor of the Rugby World Cup, with England v. Tonga getting under way as this post goes live—I present for your consideration St. Helens vs. Wigan in the 2014 Super League Grand Final of rugby: also remembered as Lance Hohaia v. Ben Flower.


There is, moreover, fascinating follow-up to this encounter to be found in Guardian coverage in 2015 and in BBC coverage in 2016.  The incident was recently recalled by TV NZ 1's Luke Appleby, who suggested that tort liability might be just the thing to bring rugby sluggers to heel.

HT@ barrister David Casserly, who first brought this dust-up to my attention.

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