Case briefing



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Case briefing

  • Where are we?
  • Case briefing
    • Tool to help you understand individual cases, analyze cases, participate thoughtfully in class
  • Case synthesis
    • The process of distilling a series of decisions into meaningful standards (rules) that you can apply to comparable factual and legal contexts.
  • Exam writing

Law School Exams

  • In many classes, one exam (at the end of the semester) will determine your grade
  • Most exams are 2-3 hours and consist of “essay” questions based on extensive fact patterns
  • Pulling a last-minute all-nighter may have worked in college, but not here
  • Personal outlines for each class are essential

Question I

  • Question I
  • (60 minutes; 40 points)
  • Ward and June Cleaver are frustrated. The “dream home” they purchased in “Mayfield Mews,” a new development on the outskirts of town, is more of a nightmare—it is plagued by a water infiltration problem. The water problem is not the result of any grading defects (which could be fairly easily remedied), but is caused by the high ground water table level. While this may be a temporary condition based on the cycle of heavy rainfall over the past several years, it very likely is a permanent situation.
  • Although the water infiltration does not make the house uninhabitable, the basement cannot be “finished” into a family room (as it was designed to be by the builder) because mold will develop if any drywall or insulation is installed. Also, anything stored in the basement quickly will become covered with mold and/or mildew, and it is possible the mold will infiltrate the walls and insulation of the main living area of the home. There are some things that can help (a commercial grade dehumidifier, for example), but there are no solutions as long as the water table remains high. As long as the problem persists, the house is essentially unmarketable.
  • This not what the Cleavers had in mind when they bought their dream home. They want to sue Mayfield Construction, the builder of the home and developer of “Mayfield Mews,” and force it to take back the home and return the Cleavers’ purchase price. They have come to your law firm, Whitney, Mondello, & Bates, for advice. As part of your research on this issue, you discover the Cleavers’ contract with Mayfield includes the following term:
  • “Purchaser has examined this property and agrees to accept same in its present condition. There are no other or additional written or oral understandings.”
  • The contract is a 27-page standard form contract signed by all purchasers of homes in “Mayfield Mews.” It was signed by the Cleavers (and others) when they selected their lot and the model home they desired, prior to construction of the home.
  • You also discover that prior to building the development, Mayfield commissioned a report on the water table issue by a local university professor and hydrologist. That report found that the water table was “extremely high, at near record levels,” but that this condition was “highly unusual” and “very likely temporary.” The report concluded with a “high level of confidence” that the water table “would not cause significant obstacles to construction and would not manifest as water problems in homes built on the site.”
  • Of course the report was inaccurate; the water table is now predicted to remain high for the “foreseeable future.” The Cleavers insist they had no hint of possible water problems. One time when Ward visited the construction site, he had seen water in the holes excavated for foundations, but he assumed this was simply collected rainwater and was normal prior to the foundation actually being laid. He did not ask Mayfield about it.
  • What advice do you have for the Cleavers? How likely are they to prevail in their lawsuit? What counterarguments or defenses do you anticipate from Mayfield?

Knowledge of the Law (Rules)

  • Elements for succeeding on law school exams
  • Knowledge of the Law (Rules)
  • Ability to Analyze (Apply law/rule to facts)
  • Demonstrating Ability to Analyze – Writing an effective exam answer

Read the fact pattern (the “story”); identify issues raised by the story

  • What is your role?
  • Read the fact pattern (the “story”); identify issues raised by the story
  • Explain to the reader—issue by issue—what the law (rule) is and how it applies to the set of facts provided
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  • Monday “NO, you haven’t earned it.”
  • Tuesday “Sure, it’s only 3:30”
  • Wednesday “O.K. Dinner isn’t for another hour and a half.”
  • Thursday “No, you got ice cream yesterday and the day before.”
  • Day 5 On a hot, muggy Friday at 3:30, the children ask for ice cream. Earlier in the day, they washed the car and mowed the lawn, but then they went to Super America without asking permission and bought candy. Dinner is planned earlier than usual (4:30). The children did not get ice cream yesterday, but did the two days prior to that. YOU DECIDE!

How many said, “Let them eat ice cream”?

  • So What Do You Do?
  • How many said, “Let them eat ice cream”?
    • Why?
  • How many said, “No ice cream today”.
    • Why not?
  • What does this have to do with law school exams?
  • Monday “NO, you haven’t earned it.”
  • Tuesday “Sure, it’s only 3:30”
  • Wednesday “O.K. Dinner isn’t for another hour and a half.”
  • Thursday “No, you got ice cream yesterday and the day before.”
  • Generally, the children may purchase ice cream if they have been well behaved and it is sufficiently early in the day such that it will not ruin their dinner. However, purchasing ice cream must remain a special treat, not an everyday expectation.

Treats-Entitlement to Ice Cream

  • Treats-Entitlement to Ice Cream

The Big Categories

  • Contracts
  • Torts
  • Property
  • Criminal Law
  • Civil Procedure

Introduction to the Study of Contract Law

  • Introduction to the Study of Contract Law
  • Mutual Assent and Consideration
  • Promissory Estoppel and Restitution
  • Statute of Frauds
  • Interpretation and the Parol Evidence Rule
  • Supplementing the Agreement: Implied Terms, Good Faith, and Warranties
  • THE CATEGORIES FOR YOUR CLASS/EXAM

Mutual Assent

  • Mutual Assent
    • The Objective Theory of Contract
    • Offer and Acceptance in Bilateral Contracts
    • Offer and Acceptance in Unilateral Contracts
    • Other methods of reaching mutual assent
  • Consideration

Prepare for exams by preparing outlines

  • Short Outline
  • Long Outline
  • These are your categories (issues) for your exam
  • Each category—Rule (1-3 sentences)
  • Consideration
  • Consideration is a bargained for exchange of performances or promises. Each performance or promise must, at least in part, induce the giving of the return performance or promise. A performance may be an act, a forebearance from acting, or the creation, modification, or destruction of a legal relation.
  • Past Consideration
  • Illusory Promise
  • Mutuality of Obligation
  • Promissory Estoppel
  • A promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce reliance, and which does induce reliance, is binding if injustice can only be avoided by enforcement of the promise. The remedy may be limited as justice requires.
  • The promisee must show that she relied on the promise reasonably and to her detriment, that is, she is . . . .

Treats-Entitlement to Ice Cream

  • Generally, the children may purchase ice cream if they have been well behaved and it is sufficiently early in the day such that it will not ruin their dinner. However, purchasing ice cream must remain a special treat, not an everyday expectation.

Read the fact pattern (the “story”); identify issues raised by the story

  • What is your role?
  • Read the fact pattern (the “story”); identify issues raised by the story
  • Explain to the reader—issue by issue—what the law (rule) is and how it applies to the set of facts provided
  • Monday “NO, you haven’t earned it.”
  • Tuesday “Sure, it’s only 3:30”
  • Wednesday “O.K. Dinner isn’t for another hour and a half.”
  • Thursday “No, you got ice cream yesterday and the day before.”

Treats-Entitlement to Ice Cream

  • Generally, the children may purchase ice cream if they have been well behaved and it is sufficiently early in the day such that it will not ruin their dinner. However, purchasing ice cream must remain a special treat, not an everyday expectation.

On a hot, muggy Friday at 3:30, the children ask for ice cream. Earlier in the day, they washed the car and mowed the lawn, but then they went to Super America without asking permission and bought candy. Dinner is planned earlier than usual (4:30). The children did not get ice cream yesterday, but did the two days prior to that.

  • On a hot, muggy Friday at 3:30, the children ask for ice cream. Earlier in the day, they washed the car and mowed the lawn, but then they went to Super America without asking permission and bought candy. Dinner is planned earlier than usual (4:30). The children did not get ice cream yesterday, but did the two days prior to that.
  • What should happen?

Treats-Entitlement to Ice Cream

  • Generally, the children may purchase ice cream if they have been well behaved and it is sufficiently early in the day such that it will not ruin their dinner. However, purchasing ice cream must remain a special treat, not an everyday expectation.
  • IRAC

Application (Analysis) is identifying facts that demonstrate (arguably) that each element of the rule is met/not met

  • IRAC

Elements of the Rule

  • Children must have been well behaved
  • It must be sufficiently early so as not to ruin dinner
  • Ice cream must remain a special treat; not an everyday occurrence

Children must have been well behaved

  • Children must have been well behaved
  • Because the children completed chores early in the day (washing the car and mowing the lawn) they have been sufficiently well behaved to be entitled to ice cream despite going to the Super America store without permission.
  • Treats-Entitlement to Ice Cream
  • Generally, the children may purchase ice cream . . . .
  • Because the children completed chores early in the day (washing the car and mowing the lawn) they have been sufficiently well behaved to be entitled to ice cream despite going to the Super America store without permission. In addition, because they asked to buy ice cream at 3:30, relatively early in the afternoon and a full hour before dinner was planned, it is unlikely that the ice cream will ruin their dinner. Finally, because the children did not get ice cream the previous day, buying ice cream today will not make it an every day occurrence; it will remain a special treat. Therefore, . . .
  • Treats-Entitlement to Ice Cream
  • Generally, the children may purchase ice cream . . . .
  • Because the children went to Super America without permission, they have not been sufficiently well behaved to entitle them to purchase ice cream. Moreover, although they asked to purchase ice cream relatively early in the afternoon, because dinner was planned earlier than usual (only an hour after the ice cream request) the ice cream likely would ruin the children’s appetite. Finally, although the children did not purchase ice cream the previous day, this would make the third time they purchased it in a week, making it an everyday occurrence rather than a special treat. Therefore, . . .
  • Promissory Estoppel
  • Rule?
  • In this case, because Bob’s uncle unequivocally said, “I will pay for your law school education,” he made a promise. Because he and Bob had a close relationship, and Bob frequently helped on his uncle’s farm for no pay, Bob’s uncle could reasonably have expected that Bob would rely on the promise. Because Bob did enroll at the more expensive private school, he relied on the promise to his detriment. Because Bob’s uncle has the benefit of Bob’s work, and because Bob incurred substantial debt that he otherwise would not have, injustice can only be avoided by enforcing Bob’s uncle’s promise.

Because appellant's expensive home and car and position as a successful business owner made it appear as if he was fully capable of keeping his promise to pay respondent's law-school expenses and because appellant had bestowed his generosity on respondent several times before he promised to pay her law-school expenses, appellant reasonably should have expected his promise to induce action by respondent. The promise did induce action by respondent and left her with a substantial debt when appellant failed to keep his promise. Respondent quit her job and attended law school with the expectation that appellant would pay her law-school expenses and she would not be in debt for these expenses when she graduated. Because it would be unjust to require respondent to pay a debt that she incurred in reliance on appellant's promise to pay the debt, appellant's promise is enforceable notwithstanding the statute of frauds.

  • Because appellant's expensive home and car and position as a successful business owner made it appear as if he was fully capable of keeping his promise to pay respondent's law-school expenses and because appellant had bestowed his generosity on respondent several times before he promised to pay her law-school expenses, appellant reasonably should have expected his promise to induce action by respondent. The promise did induce action by respondent and left her with a substantial debt when appellant failed to keep his promise. Respondent quit her job and attended law school with the expectation that appellant would pay her law-school expenses and she would not be in debt for these expenses when she graduated. Because it would be unjust to require respondent to pay a debt that she incurred in reliance on appellant's promise to pay the debt, appellant's promise is enforceable notwithstanding the statute of frauds.
  • Because it was a hot an muggy Friday, the end of the week, it is only fair that the children should be permitted to purchase ice cream.
  • Because it was a hot an muggy Friday, the end of the week, justice demands that the children should be permitted to purchase ice cream.
  • Treats-Entitlement to Ice Cream
  • Generally, the children may purchase ice cream . . . .
  • In this case, on a hot, muggy Friday at 3:30, the children asked for ice cream. Earlier in the day, they washed the car and mowed the lawn, but then they went to Super America without asking permission and bought candy. Dinner was planned earlier than usual (4:30). The children did not get ice cream the previous day, but did the two days prior to that.
  • Like the case where the children got ice cream when they cleaned their room but later went to the park without asking, by washing the car and mowing the lawn they have been sufficiently well behaved to be entitled to purchase ice cream despite having gone to the Super America store without asking permission. And like the case where the ice cream truck came by at 4:00 and dinner was planned for 5:15, here purchasing ice cream at 3:30 is sufficiently early when dinner is planned for 4:30 that the children’s appetite will not be ruined. Finally, in the Smith case, a limit of three consecutive days was set, which will not be violated in this case because the children did not buy ice cream the pervious day.
  • Like the case where the children got ice cream when they cleaned their room but later went to the park without asking, the children can argue that by completing substantial chores--washing the car and mowing the lawn--they have been sufficiently well behaved to be entitled to purchase ice cream despite having gone to the Super America store without asking permission. However, the fact that they bought candy and now want another treat could be a substantial obstacle. They have to show buying ice cream will not ruin their appetite for dinner. They can point to the case where the ice cream truck came by at 4:00 and dinner was planned for 5:15, and explain that even though dinner is planned earlier than usual, purchasing ice cream at 3:30 is a full hour before dinner and therefore sufficiently early. Again, the fact that they have already had candy will hurt their argument, although they could argue the substantial chores they have completed have made them especially hungry. Finally, the children can probably show that purchasing ice cream in this case will not make it an everyday occurrence. In the Smith case, a limit of three consecutive days was set, which will not be violated in this case because the children did not buy ice cream the pervious day.


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