Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bringing Tort Law to Life

The average torts casebook contains a fascinating – and sobering – history of negligent acts and liability for injuries, from bringing fireworks onto a crowded train to being hit by a stray baseball and countless other misfortunes in between. But now there's a place where seminal moments in the history of U.S. tort law will really come to life. This weekend, the American Museum of Tort Law had its dedication ceremony in Winsted, Connecticut, and officially opens its doors on Sunday. The new museum is the brainchild of consumer advocate (and Winsted native) Ralph Nader, whose 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed revolutionized the consumer protection movement and resulted in the passage of federal automobile safety standards.

The New York Times reviewed the museum's development and opening exhibits. These include such well-known examples as the McDonald's "hot coffee" spill, tobacco and asbestos litigation, and the defective automobiles which spurred the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed. The museum's website discusses several of these exhibits in detail online, under the section Cases that Made a Difference. A brief Q&A about tort law basics is also available.

The Goodson Law Library has a number of resources available to help readers learn more about this topic. General tort law overviews and study aids are listed in the library's guide to First-Year Treatises. A number of other works in our collection discuss the history and stories behind seminal torts cases, including Torts Stories and the excellent 2011 documentary Hot Coffee: Is Justice Being Served?, which debunked a number of popular myths about the McDonald's litigation as well as misconceptions about "frivolous lawsuits" in the American legal system. To locate materials in our collection on tort law, search the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "Torts – United States" or Ask a Librarian.