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 32.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good for General Use This course is old (about a quarter of a century old) but still generally useful. NOTE: The lectures in this course are 45 minutes long instead of the common 30 minutes. Also, there are only 8 lectures in this course instead of the more common 24. Finally, this course is designed to be taken in conjunction with the parallel course Business Law: Contracts. This course addresses the fundamentals of what should be known by anyone executing a contract. Topics include items of general interest such as negligence, trespassing, libel, slander, inflicting emotional distress, and product liability. While intended for use in conjunction with the Business Law: Contracts course, this course is obviously of interest to consumers as well. Dr. Cross is a very good lecturer. His lectures are always well organized. He addresses topics in an intelligible and enjoyable manner. His illustrations are insightful. However, it is obvious that The Great Courses (TGC) production standards were much lower in these olden days; frequently, the audience can be heard in the background. I took the audio version. I still have the CD but now it is available only by audio download. (For some reason, it is not available by streaming.)
Date published: 2018-08-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Business Law Torts I was disappointed as there was no cases of litigation against the TV media.
Date published: 2017-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everything the Layman Needs to Know about Torts The best Great Courses offerings combine the best presentations of knowledge, personality, humor, and examples. Dr. Cross covers all these components in "Business Law: Negligence and Torts." His playful manner and his helpful habit of repeating new terms and concepts bring the listener into his lectures with full comprehension. I hope Dr. Cross will consider doing other such courses, such as on contracts, family law, and estates and wills. I am a paralegal student and he is a fine source to begin subjects.
Date published: 2017-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never Out of Date—Get It This course has been on offer for a long time. It may predate video courses offered by This course has been on offer for a long time. It may predate video courses offered by the Teaching Company. (Do they still use that name?) The material is still relevant and the presentation excellent. How can a course be this old yet still of value? The core principles and basic legal guidance provided by Prof. Cross is timeless. Though he cites court cases, he doesn't cite cases that are razor edge controversial arcane points of law. Rather, he is teaching the core around which business law revolves. Every business owner should familiarize herself with these concepts. How the courts tend to view damages is a great example. While we all want to sue and destroy the party that wronged us, the courts are more interested in making a damaged party 'whole'. And yes, companies are sued because of product defects but being injured if you put your hand in a blender won't likely lead you to prevail in a court case unless the manufacturer gave instructions such as "add food to the blender by hand while the blade is turning but be careful." Businesses must be prudent and do everything possible to protect a customer. As a business consultant and teacher, I highly recommend this brief, interesting, and potentially business saving course. At $250 an hour that lawyers command, I can guarantee this course will save you money at some point by improving your legal thinking as a business person. Prof. Cross makes this course fun with many interesting examples. He has just the right balance of humor and seriousness. Truly, this a great course. I'd love your comments.
Date published: 2017-05-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Like the Method and Professor--Not the Topic audio download version Another course a picked up on the cheap even though I have little interest in the Law. Pretty much what I expected. Good lecturer and presentation, that saved (for me) a dull topic. To be sure Professor Cross has an engaging style and has found a method to present a dry topic interestingly, often with a bit of humor. Still not my cup of tea. Recommended for those with interest in the topic.
Date published: 2016-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very clearly presented I am currently completing a law course in my MBA program so I can compare this course with an MBA law course on tort law. I really found this course helpful: 1) The professor has a wonderful sense of humor, is extremely knowledgeable, provides plenty of real life examples, and above all present the material in comprehensible verbiage! 2) The length of the course is perfect at 8 lectures. They really do go fast. I recommend the course to anyone needing to further their knowledge in tort law. I do wish to see perhaps an updated version of the course though the basics have not changed.
Date published: 2016-09-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too old and too basic This course is 17 or more years old. I am concerned that some of the examples are outdated and need to be brought up to 2016. The materials and examples are so simplified they seem aimed at high school level review. I listened to about 1/3 of most lectures and lost interest .
Date published: 2016-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Covers content As a physician,in-private practice it is important to have an understanding of the concepts presented in this course. It was presented well. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2016-01-21
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