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Handout: The case needs to be discussed
IRAC: Writing format
Fix content has been provided:
Issue: Is the Bear’s mixed-use property a dwelling house for purposes of Penal Code section 459 (the burglary statute)?
CASE BRIEF SAMPLE:
Eric J. Smith, a minor, and Helen Smith v. Betty M. Figueroa (Cal. Appellate Case 1999)
The plaintiffs are Eric J. Smith, a minor, and Helen Smith. The defendant is Betty M. Figueroa, the mother of Robert Figueroa. Robert brought home his new girlfriend, plaintiff Helen Smith, and her eight-year-old son, plaintiff Eric J. Smith, a minor, to meet Robert’s mother, defendant Betty M. Figueroa. The relationship between Robert and Helen continued and Helen and Eric were guests several times in Betty’s home. No family member told Helen about Robert’s criminal history of felony child molestation. It was later discovered that Robert sexually molested Eric during some of these visits at his mother’s home, all the while Robert was on parole for child molestation. Robert was convicted of molesting Eric and sent back to prison. Helen filed a civil suit against Betty, claiming Betty had a duty to warn her about Robert’s criminal past and the potential danger to her child, and failing that duty that she were liable for money damages for the harm suffered by Eric. The trial court dismissed the case on a nonsuit motion.
Whether the trial court properly dismissed the negligence claim based on the premise that family members of a convicted child molester have no affirmative duty to disclose that information to the molester’s girlfriend who has an eight-year-old boy.
In the absence of a special relationship, family members of a convicted child molester, who have not created the danger or risk, have no affirmative duty to disclose information to another regarding the family member’s criminal past and potential danger.
The appellate court placed great weight upon the “no duty to aid” rule, developed “over the centuries” in courts. The court noted that a special relationship is required to create a duty to warn, give aid, or otherwise help another. Ultimately, the court found that no such special relationship existed and found no other reason to suggest that the family members had a duty to warn the girlfriend. The court cited several cases, including a California Supreme Court case,
Williams v. State of California, that establish the “no duty to aid” rule. In short, a person who has not created the danger or risk is not liable simply for failing to take an affirmative action unless there is “some relationship” that creates a “duty to act.” The court rejected a case that seemed to rule the other way,
Soldano v. O’Daniels, by explaining that the facts in that case clearly showed that the defendant had actually prevented someone else from rendering aid. The court also noted that any decision to find a duty to aid in this case would interfere with family relationships by creating “intolerable conflicts of interest.” Impliedly, this went against public policy.
The appellate court found that the trial court was correct to dismiss the case on a nonsuit motion, and affirmed the lower case decision.
Understanding case law is essential to success in any law related class. Consequently, students
will provide analyses of assigned cases to help their development and understanding of the legal
issues presented. These case analyses, better known as “case briefs,” will help students develop
legal issues spotting techniques and provide an overview of how law applies to specific fact
patterns. The case briefs should be written in the following I-R-A-C format:
1. Facts: The facts section should briefly indicate:
a. the reasons for the lawsuit;
b. the identity of the parties and their respective arguments;
c. the lower court’s decision, if applicable; and
d. the procedural posture of the case, including what court procedure was used that
led to the appeal. (Examples of court procedures are a motion for summary
judgment or a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.)
2. Issue: The issue section should set forth the question(s) before the court. The issue must
be phrased as a question. Cases often have more than one issue, meaning that the court
will often answer more than one question. For purposes of this class; however, cases will
generally have only one key issue that you will need to address.
3. Rule: The rule section should set forth the law the court uses to answer the question
presented in the issue section.
4. Application/Analysis: This application/analysis section should briefly discuss how the
court applies the rule to the facts to answer the question presented in the issue section.
The application/analysis section provides the reason(s) for the court’s decision, usually in
the form of a syllogism (e.g., all dogs are animals. All animals have 4 legs; therefore, all
dogs have 4 legs).
5. Conclusion: The conclusion section should state the court’s decision, including how the
case is resolved and in whose favor the case is decided.
Case briefs must be original. Any identical or duplicate briefs will not receive credit.