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by on February 13, 2013

What is the purpose of law?  Some think it is there only to try to stop you from doing the really fun things.  Some think that it exists to be broken.  Some think that it is there to create order.  Is it there to exact punishment?  Is it there because lawyers and lawmakers are sadistic?  It exists, perhaps, to punish “antisocial behavior” — behavior someone, somewhere, thinks is against the interest of society.  There are laws that we that we cannot stand and laws that we cannot understand.  There are laws in our favor and in our disfavor.

There are various forms of law.  Criminal Law.  Contract Law.  Torts.  These are the subjects that law students form a love-hate relationship with (which, in itself, often results in either a crime or a tortious act).  These are subjects that law students love because the students are studying law for a reason.  These are the subjects that law students hate because they are hard to comprehend, they never end, and (to finish the rhyme) they get stuck in the head.

Criminal law exists to discourage antisocial behavior.  These acts are either mala in se – evil in name – or mala prohibitum – bad only because we say so, such as zoning ordinances.  There will always be laws that society calls mala in se that we do not agree with, or are iffy about.  Take, for instance, assisted suicide.  The person wants to die, they go to someone who can help  them die, and the person assisting the death is charged with murder.  Why?  Because.  (Which is to say, because we want to dissuade others from helping people commit suicide, which is only a  reason because we say it is.)

Contracts is a wonderful reminder how frequently we engage in both formal and informal contracts, or appear to do so, without ever thinking about it.  Every purchase you make is some sort of contract.  Every deal you have with a company involves a contract or a rejection of a contract.

Unless you know your law when I said “Torts” is a subject you said “huh?”.  Tort, the word, is derived from the Latin “twisted,” which gives you some idea of the subject, and, if you are averse to the subject some idea of the study involved.  Torts involve twisted, or, more commonly referred to as ‘negligent’ acts. The lady who sued McDonalds because her hot coffee was hot?  That was a tort – on the part of McDonalds.  McDonalds was found to be negligent for not informing her that a hot liquid was hot.

I do not own a restaurant chain but Torts has nonetheless reminded me of how frequently (and, just as frequently, accidentally) we do something that can result in negligence.  Be careful where you swing your golf club or your baseball bat.  Be careful not to skip the stone in the water if there’s someone out there.  Be careful not to wave your arms about in excitement and hit someone in the face.  Although I tend to mind my own actions I am now made more aware of each act (or, in some cases, lack of action) that I do that could result in negligence.  While whatever I do would have to be quite unreasonable I am now even more aware of the many things we all do throughout the day that could, even (especially) result in battery, which, in the land of Torts, is “harmful or offensive touching.”  If that were to happen, I would be forced to plead the third, which would not be advisable in a courtroom.

From the wonderful xkcd:

Secretary: Part 3

From → Law

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