Business Law: Negligence and Torts

Course No. 562
Professor Frank B. Cross, J.D.
The University of Texas at Austin
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Course No. 562
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Course Overview

This course addresses two important questions: When is someone else legally responsible for harm done to you? When are you legally responsible for harm done to someone else? This course of eight lectures discusses torts, the body of law designed to redress through civil litigation harms done to persons. As with all bodies of law, in order to analyze the legal implications of a potentially tortious action, it is necessary to blend common sense and pragmatic thinking with an understanding of legal definitions as they have evolved over time.

This lecture series not only explains the basics of this substantive body of law, but it also gives insight through examples of how the law is based on a logical idea of a just outcome.

You have an outstanding guide to understand clearly this area of law. Professor Frank B. Cross is Professor of Business Regulation at The University of Texas at Austin and a former attorney with the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, DC.

The Academy of Legal Studies in Business honored Professor Cross as the nation's outstanding professor. Business Week 's guide to M.B.A. programs has also recognized him as one of the nation's outstanding teachers.

His conversational, clear, thorough, and humorous style makes this course a pleasure.

The Basics: Negligence and Intentional Interference with Property

Lecture 1 lays out the basic foundations of torts law, the three categories of which it is composed, and the legal factors necessary to find a person liable for a tort.

Negligence is discussed in terms of specific legal duties under the common law, and the standard of what a "reasonable person" would think or do, which is relied upon so heavily in this body of law.

Lecture 2 continues the discussion of negligence, especially of property owners, and the defenses that can be offered against allegations of negligence. You consider the duties of landowners to trespassers, guests, and others (such as the injuries of burglars or children who invade swimming pools). You search the causal connections that determine whether one person's acts are—in law—the "cause" of another's harm.

Lecture 3 discusses the flip side of property owner's negligence—the definitions of intentional interference with property. Your neighbor's tree interferes with your fence and your sunlight. You cook with mountains of garlic that vent into your neighbor's apartment. What determines intentional interference with property? You look at various cases. The nature of intent is discussed in terms of each of several kinds of offenses.

Defamation, Privacy, and Emotional Distress

Lectures 4 and 5 deal with the high-profile, occasionally controversial topics of defamation, privacy, and emotional distress.

In Lecture 4, you look at the law of libel (written) and slander (oral) that damage a person's reputation. Several requirements of defamation are discussed, as well as the privilege to defame which can attend commentary on public figures. You also examine when truth is a defense against libel.

Lecture 5 discusses the expanding tort of infliction of emotional distress, which can be either negligent or intentional, but which must pass several specific tests before it can be definitely labeled tortious. Invasion of privacy and the various forms it can take under common law are reviewed in detail.

Business Torts: Product Liability, Interference, Misappropriation, Trademarks

Lectures 6, 7, and 8 return to a more traditional conception of business law in their discussion of product liability, business torts, and trademarks.

Do cars need warning labels? Would it have any legal effect if they did? The extent to which a manufacturer is liable for damages caused to persons or property is explained in Lecture 6, including the several defenses, such as assumption of risk, which can be raised.

Lecture 7 discusses third-party intervention in contracts and prospective business, as well as the legal implications of misappropriation of information.

Lecture 8 closes the series with an interesting discussion of trademark law, and the considerations such as competition or likelihood of consumer confusion that courts must weigh before handing down decisions on such infringements. The cases discussed in this lecture look at intrusions on the trade name, appearance, and reputation of many famous products.

Please note:

This course is not intended to provide financial or investment advice. All investments involve risk: Past performance does not guarantee future success. You acknowledge that any reliance on any information from the materials contained in this course shall be at your own risk.

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8 lectures
 |  Average 47 minutes each
  • 1
    Foundations of Torts and Negligence Introduction
    Tort law is a body of common law designed to compensate persons injured in civil, as opposed to criminal, wrongs. The duties and behaviors of the hypothetical "reasonable person," as interpreted during centuries of litigation, have come to form this practical and highly developed body of law. They can be broken down into the broad categories of intentional harms, negligence, and certain cases in which strict liability for actions applies. x
  • 2
    Negligence (continued)
    This lecture continues the discussion of negligence with the duties of landowners—a subject of practical interest to many Americans. The degrees of liability are various, and defenses to these and other torts abound, from defenses which admit the actions alleged but give an excuse—affirmative defenses—to issues of "proximate cause" which offer commonsense checks to the damages sought in many cases. x
  • 3
    Intentional Interferences with Property
    Intent, an essential component of many types of torts, has been legally refined to differentiate between action taken and necessary components of intent in that circumstance. The torts of trespass, conversion, and nuisance involve different actions, and the intent to perform those actions has also been construed differently. The subtleties are such that even without intending actual harm, one can be liable for harm caused. x
  • 4
    Defamation, a body of law that frequently produces high-profile litigation, is divided into the torts of libel and slander. Both have developed highly nuanced definitions, as the difference between a defamatory statement and an unflattering opinion can be difficult to discern. Public figures, for example, have different standards applied to them than ordinary private citizens in matters of defamation, and the elements of defamation, including publication and business interest, require much care to prove. x
  • 5
    Privacy and Emotional Distress
    Emotional distress, negligently or intentionally inflicted, is a tort that exacts very real penalties yet uses potentially subjective tests. The use of a "reasonable person's" perspective is the classic attempt at standardizing under law the effects of outrageous and negligent behavior on the emotions. Invasion of privacy is a tort that carries implications for the media, law enforcement, and workplace policies. x
  • 6
    Product Liability
    The power of a consumer to sue a manufacturer for injury by a product is bounded by several tests. Unavoidably unsafe products, or those which are reasonably safe in regard to their function, are protected from liability. Defects in design or manufacture are carefully weighed by courts before awarding damages, and there are also several defenses, such as assumption of risk, or product misuse, to a manufacturer's strict liability for injury to person or property. x
  • 7
    Business Torts
    Although most tort actions are initiated by individuals against other individuals, organizations, or corporations, suits for business torts can be brought by corporations against individuals. These include complex issues of wrongful interference with contract or prospective business, and misappropriation. This area of the law litigates, among other things, the intricacies of trade secrets and breaches of contract induced by third parties. x
  • 8
    Companies develop trademarks to develop and hold consumer goodwill. The law protects these trademarks from being used by others who aim to exploit that goodwill. Originally a common law issue, trademark law is now statutory. Different types of trademarks are treated with varying degrees of protection under law, but the main goal of statutes is to protect consumers from confusing products as a result of similar trademarks. x

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Your professor

Frank B. Cross

About Your Professor

Frank B. Cross, J.D.
The University of Texas at Austin
Professor Frank B. Cross is Professor in the Department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management at The University of Texas at Austin and a former attorney with the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C. He earned his B.A. from the University of Kansas and his J.D. from Harvard Law School. At Texas, Professor Cross has taught undergraduate classes, MBA classes, and executive-education courses in aspects of...
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Business Law: Negligence and Torts is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 31.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I Highly Recommend Courses by Prof. Cross! I just finished this course and learned about what a tort is and its various forms. I also just purchased Professor Cross' course on Contracts. I am looking forward to listening to this course. If anyone out there wants to gain a basic understanding of Negligence and Torts, then, Business Law: Negligence and Torts, by Professor Cross is a must! In eight, forty-five minute lectures, he covers topics that range from what negligence is, defamation, privacy and emotional distress, product liability and a few other topics, that can even be applied to your everyday life. The information presented is still relevant today.
Date published: 2015-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Introduction to Negligence Like the other course taught by Cross, this course teaches by example. That is, the law is explained, but the real learning is in the studying of cases. I did not know that there were so many different types of negligence! Unfortunately, familiarity with the concepts taught in this course is becoming more and more important as lawsuits become more common. The age of this course had no affect on the relevance of the material. Cross is entertaining and explains things very clearly. It is interesting that he didn't seem to plan the lectures precisely because he seems to fit in as many example cases as he has time to squeeze in. That is, he'll say that we have time for a few examples, or we have time for one more case... That being said, it never seemed like he left out any of the explanations and there were always a few examples. I do wish he could have added another lecture or two with more example cases. The examples he chose really showed how strange our system is and the often odd cases that arise and I really enjoyed that aspect of the course. I also enjoyed the other Business Law course; see the link below.
Date published: 2015-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Business Law: Negligence and Torts Top three purchases at the Teaching Company. Frank Cross is incredibly witty and can bring an important (usually dry) subject to life. Wish he would teach more classes!
Date published: 2014-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from He knows what he's talking about Since I generally buy the courses to learn about subjects on which I am ignorant, I am not in much of a position to say whether the lecturers actually know their stuff. This one was different: I am an English barrister and I have been practising in the field of negligence and torts for over 30 years. I bought the course to learn about the differences between the English and American systems. The lecturer knows his stuff inside out, and has a very engaging way of putting it over.
Date published: 2014-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from useful course. Dr. Cross' courses are quite educational to learn about business law. Also listen to the contract course. A wealth of info there.
Date published: 2012-04-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Business Law: Negligence and Torts Audio Download I found Professor Cross' lectures to be exciting and intellectually stimulating, especially the lectures on Negligence and Privacy and Emotional Distress. However, the course lecture themes are about Intentional Interferences with Property, Defamation and the other topics I previously mentioned. At eight forty-five minute lectures, only three of them were on the subject of Business Law. Therefore, I feel the title of the course is a bit misleading. Having said that, the whole course, especially lectures one through five, are especially stimulating. Another issue that lowered my Overall and Course Value Ratings is that the course itself is very old. Only after downloading the course did I find out that it was recorded in 1994! At sixteen or seventeen years old, I feel strongly that this course needs an update, Ideally with Professor Cross reprising his role as course professor. I would not recommend this course to a friend because it is old, does not have an accurate course description and only average course value.
Date published: 2011-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Again, Practically Essential I heartily recommend this course. It deserves 5 stars--and the same URGENT attention--for the same reasons stated in my review of Professor Cross's (companion) course on Contract Law. Please refer to that review, as those comments relate to this course also.
Date published: 2011-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it!! Once again Professor Cross has cleared up aspects of the law that I have heard about but never really understood. I love that he presents the information very clearly and then ends each lecture with review cases. His humor is great and he has a no-nonsense style of teaching. He makes no grand "change your life" summations at the end of each lectures as if it were some kind of Sunday sermon (unlike some other professors). When he's done he is done!!! I wish there were more Law courses like this one!!
Date published: 2011-01-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Survey This course is an excellent introduction to tort law for the layman. All the major types of torts are covered and Prof Drake always cites interesting and/or famous cases. His presentation is clear, organized and straightforward, and his easy going style and sense of humor enliven a subject which can be very dry.
Date published: 2010-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Companion to Contracts This course is interesting, concise, clear, and well thought out. Combined with its companion course on Contracts, one gets a very useful laymen's introduction to elementary business law applicable in daily work anmd personal situatons.
Date published: 2009-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent precursor to more Torts Having taken Professor Cross's Contracts course, I highly encourage all business, law, and citizens to take this course. His presentation is fantastic and is understandable for the layman. I consider this an excellent reference to my legal arsenal upon which I may call upon in any court. I highly recommend additional legal and business related courses from Professor Cross. This is a win-win for everyone and especially for the customer. I will be looking for additional lectures by the Professor and The Teaching Company.
Date published: 2009-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun I have hated and avoided everything having to do with legal stuff for most of my life. I took this course to make a little chip in the monolith of my ignorance. The speaker is very knowledgeable, but more importantly he is really fun. He took a very playful and lighthearted approach that really kept me entertained. I learned a lot. He uses lots of interesting examples to illustrate the concepts outlined by the law.
Date published: 2009-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good course A very good basic course. Just wish there was an updated version
Date published: 2009-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Humorous As with the Contracts course, the Prof. treats the material with such humor, I laughed out loud through the whole series. I've listened to them both twice.
Date published: 2009-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Cross does a very good job of explaining the concepts in these courses, even to a novice such as myself. The case histories are very interesting. My only real complaint is that sometimes when Professor Cross discusses a particular case as an example, he admits he doesn't have all the relevant facts handy. I would have hoped that doing his homework would be necessary for teaching the course: although the points in question aren't necessarily important ones, they are interesting to the listener!
Date published: 2009-01-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Highly amusing and reasonably accurate This course is getting a little long in the tooth--one of the few that has no video version. And the law has changed, a bit, since it was recorded. But while some of the examples Prof. Cross uses now seem a bit dated, in general the content holds up very well. The law of torts is one that even non-lawyers find intrinsically interesting--there are more amusing and dramatic fact patterns in a torts class than even in a criminal law class. And Prof. Cross is great at describing interesting fact patterns, both real and hypothetical, and using them to illustrate legal principles. The class, and in general any law class taught in a business school rather than a law school, may make some lawyers a bit uncomfortable. Compared to my first-year torts class (taught by a similarly gifted storyteller), Prof. Cross seems almost promiscuous by simply saying what the law is--in law school, one is expected to construct an understanding of the law rather than to receive it. The law school "Socratic method" is thought to create a deeper understanding of the law, but it's notoriously inefficient. I don't think most semester-long law school torts classes cover much more ground than these eight lectures. But even so, within the limitations of the short time allowed, Prof. Cross does a pretty good job of conveying some of the open texture and uncertainty of legal issues. I recommend the course highly.
Date published: 2008-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have completed nearly one hundred of your courses over the past 10 years. the content of all of them has been excellent.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The tapes are giving me the liberal arts education I missed when I was stuck in the scinec building!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I've been an active listener to TTC for almost two decades. My education from these courses has surpassed what I learned in my BA and 2 master's education. Thank you, TTC
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You are wonderful to learn with.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sometimes I wish the commute was longer!
Date published: 2008-10-17
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