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Journal of Legal Education


products liability, law teaching


At a time when the impact of product liability litigation upon the socioeconomic structure of the United States is becoming better understood and at a time when the legal profession is realizing to a greater extent the impact of developing doctrine it is sad to note that vast numbers of law colleges offer no specialized course in this subject. The number of litigated, reported cases is rising dramatically as an increasing number of states are adopting more sophisticated and liberal approaches to product suits. Nevertheless, many law students are ill equipped to deal with the problems of a product claim, in large part because traditional teaching methods premised upon a casebook approach, regardless of the teaching method (socratic, adversary, or lecture), are essentially inadequate. Further complicating the problem is that a teacher of product liability must approach the subject with an understanding that related disciplines such as economics, medicine and engineering are an integral facet of the successful product claim. The product litigator must be familiar with these additional disciplines, know how to function within them and must also be versed in the developing substantive law. Finally, such an attorney must be expert in the use of discovery and motion practice as opposed to the theory of such procedural devices. Expertise in any one of these areas is not adequte and traditional teaching approaches necessitate the compartmentalization of each such area and the omission of the inter or multidisciplinary apsect. What follows is a discussion of the author's efforts to resolve these problems and to create a viable learning experience which will enable the young lawyer to appreciate the subtleties of the field while gaining the practical experiences necessary to succeed. To an extent the author's efforts were simplified by his former association with a New York law firm which handled a considerable amount of product liability litigation.