Originally published as a Note on Facebook
ג באב, התשע''ב
22 July, 2012
Copyright © R. Kossover, 2012
Thirty three years ago, in the summer of 1979, I moved from Brooklyn with my ex to study law at a spanking brand new school in St. Paul, MN, Hamline University School of Law. Classes started early, and my first class was "torts" which is a topic that has nothing to do with baking. Torts have to do with damages from things that go wrong, or from things purposely done wrong - what is called in Jewish law, "neziqín".
Anyway, first year law school is all about reading appeals decisions of judges and trying to isolate from the appeals decisions "rules of law", which are then applied first in law school exams, and later to the practice of law. This is a basic ability that any American lawyer is expected to have. So, torts was all about reading appeals decisions on things that went wrong - gun accidents that killed or injured people, car accidents that killed or injured people, etc., etc., and inferring from them first the "proximate cause", the cause most directly responsible for the tragic event, and then assessing responsibility according to rules of law found in these appeals decisions - which were not always clearly writen by the appellate judges.
It's the kind of thing that can put you to sleep real fast, and it often did, especially in a first period class. The professor was aware of this, and he told us to buy a book on torts that had a very interesting item in it - the decision of an appeals court concerning the issues surrounding the ship the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which carried taconite on the Great Lakes between Canada and the United States, which had sunk in a storm in Lake Superior in November, 1975. This was an issue especially close to the kids in the class - mostly from Minnesota or Wisconsin, but it rang a bell with me because of Gordon Lightfoot's song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", which even parochial Brooklyn boys like me had heard on the radio.