Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Chapter 1: law school and possums
It is said that law school changes the way we think. After just a few weeks here at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, it's already happening to me. Case in point: I'm driving home from an indoor soccer game the other night along Mellwood Avenue when I spot something on the pavement in front of me. It's a possum, dazed and bleeding, but still alive.
Some people are repulsed by these cat-sized nocturnal creatures, but they've always been strangely fascinating to me. I decide to help. Using a long stick, I carefully move the injured critter to the side of the road, while a friend directs traffic and cars back up in both directions.
The task only takes a few minutes, but in the meantime all I can think about are the legal repercussions. What if a car runs me over before I can complete my marsupial rescue? Does the driver owe me a duty of care? Would a jury view the situation differently if I were helping an injured human lying in the middle of the road? Does it matter that I'm riding an unlicensed scooter instead of my pickup truck? That it's pitch black at night instead of daytime? That we're on Mellwood instead of the much busier Zorn Avenue nearby?
In his book "1L" about Harvard Law School, Scott Turow writes that buying a hamburger makes him ponder the contractual relationship that he has forged with a fast-food worker over his sandwich. Now I know what he means.