Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lucy v. Zehmer- (Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1954)

Lando Calrissian operated a classy restaurant on Corellia before he became the classy administrator of the classiest Cloud City on Bespin. Han Solo, a friend of Lando's who was severely lacking class and hoping to obtain some, came to Lando's restaurant just before close one night and offered to buy Lando's classiest vessel, the Millenium Falcon. Han had discussed this matter with Lando many times before, and each time Lando had politely but sternly assured his "good buddy" that the Falcon simply was not for sale.

This night, Han brought with him a large box of "space wine" and the two began to drink and once again discuss the terms under which Han might buy the Falcon. Han claimed that he could pay 50,000 Imperial Credits cash that he had just saved up from several smuggling jobs via the Kessel Run. Lando said that for 50,000 he'd accept (believing his "good buddy" to be lying and wishing to call his bluff) and sell the Falcon to Han. In an attempt to force Han to admit he didn't have the credits, he even wrote out a contract of sale on the back of one of the restaurant's receipt, and signed it. Han then grabbed the receipt and offered Lando 5 credits down payment to seal the deal. Lando declined, still thinking that Han didn't have the credits. Han then proceeded to get Chewbacca to help him get the rest of the funding together.

When Han came to Lando a week later with the "contract" and the 50,000 credits, Lando refused to convey the start up code to the Falcon, stating that he had been "joking" and that he had never intended to sell the Falcon, that it had all been a joke. Han sued for specific performance, and the court granted, stating that it would have been impossible for Han or anyone else (who wasn't a telepath) to know that Lando was joking from his outward appearance. Lando claimed in court that he was very drunk from the space wine, but the court was not convinced, knowing full well that Lando was a man who could handle his liquors.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gammon v. Osteopathic Hospital of Maine- (Supreme Court of Maine, 1987)

Lobot, Lando Calrissian's assistant on the floating Cloud City on Bespin was grieving his recently deceased mother, as well as the loss of his employer Lando Calrissian due to his high-stakes contracting with the Empire (see Williams v Thomas-Walker Furniture Co- (Federal Court of Appeals-DC Circuit, 1965). Later that day, Lobot received a package from the Cloud City infirmary that he believed contained his dead mother's personal effects. When he opened the bag, he discovered that it only contained Luke Skywalker's severed hand, which while cauterized by Darth Vader's lightsaber strike, had begun to rot and turned blue in the process.

Lobot claimed to suffer emotional distress from the incident, having cyborg/human relations malfunctions and administration-related nightmares, growing distant from his family. Lobot did not report any physical ailments suffering from his emotional distress, nor did he seek professional help from the Cloud City counselor.

He sued the Cloud City infirmary for emotional damages. The court ruled that while Lobot was not within the "zone of danger", he had satisfied the court's newly established test that an individual must suffer "more emotional damage than a reasonable cyborg could bear", and held that the infirmary was obviously negligent in its mishandling of bodily remains. The court also noted that as family member of someone who was recently deceased, Lobot was much more likely to be trustworthy, limiting concerns of future floods of litigation.

Bethel v. New York City Transit Authority- (Court of Appeals, New York, 1998)

Jek Porkins was sitting in transit on his way to a briefing at the Tierfon Rebel Base when his seat collapsed beneath him. Porkins sued the Rebel Transit Authority for negligence. Though Porkins had no proof that the Rebels knew of the defective seat, he stated that the Authority owed him the "highest duty of care" as a common carrier for Rebel forces, and that they had constructive notice of the problem due to repairs of the seat 11 days earlier. While a trial court found for Porkins, the ruling was overturned, stating that the extraordinary requirements of the common law for common carriers was unacceptably harsh. The court instead opted for the establishment of a "reasonable person" standard, which is far more flexible. The case was remanded to a lower court for a new trial based on the "reasonable person" standard.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hypothetical 1 [See Popov v. Hayashi- (Superior Court, San Francisco County, California, 2002)]

The Corellian Corvette Tantive IV is in open space. Two ships are nearby, one an Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator, another, a bounty hunting vessel piloted by Cradossk. Cradossk is able to capture the Tantive IV by tractor beam, and begins to pull the ship in when a rogue vessel fires upon him, causing the ship's tractor beam to malfunction. At this point the Devastator overtakes and captures the Tantive IV. Cardossk sues the captain of the Devastator for possession of the Tantive IV. What result?

*The author wishes to note that hypotheticals may not be accurate in regards to official Star Wars cannon. These hypothetical situations are intended to assist in legal analysis, rather than convey accurate Star Wars history.

Hawkins v. McGee- (New Hampshire Supreme Court, 1929)

While coming in for several routine tune ups for his cybernetic prosthetic, Medical Droids 2-1B and FX-7 attempted to persuade Luke Skywalker that they could repair his hand and make it "as good as new", further promising him "one hundred percent good hand".

Despite their poor grammar, after several visits the Droids were successful and Luke agreed to undergo their procedure. The droids used an experimental form of "skin grafting" and removed skin from Luke's chest to use as the "new" tissue for the hand. Unfortunately, the tissue used for the graft continued to grow chest hair, and Luke's hand became increasingly hairy, leading to his need to wear a black glove over the hand at almost all times (see, Return of the Jedi).

Luke sued the droids for breach of contract, as well as pain and suffering. The court dismissed the claim for pain and suffering stating that these effects were inherently a part of the procedure that Luke agreed to; however, the court did hold that the Droids were liable to Luke for breach of contract, and that the damages the Droids owed to Luke should be equal to the difference to the hand he received (one that was disgusting and hairy) and the one he was promised (one that was "one hundred percent good hand"). This was based on the reasoning of "expectation interest" which aims to place Luke in the position he would have been, had the Droids not breached the contract.

White v Brown- (Supreme Court of Tennessee, 1977)

Han Solo devised a holographic will (which in legal terms means a will written and signed exclusively by the will-writer, but in this case also means an actual hologram) leaving the Millennium Falcon to Chewbacca "to fly in." His will also contained the phrase, "the ship is not to be sold."

After Han died and Chewbacca picked up the Falcon, his wife, Leia Solo, claimed that the ship only belonged to Chewbacca until his death, upon which Han and Leia's children would inherit the Falcon. She based her claim on the phrases in Han's will which limited Chewbacca's rights to the ship, stating that it was her husband's intent that after Chewbacca died, the ship would automatically revert back to the Solo family (This theory is called a Life Estate).

Chewbacca then brought suit against Leia, stating that regardless of the terms of the will, Han intended to give him the ship outright, to be passed on to Chewbacca's heirs after his death (This is known as a Fee Simple Absolute). He believed that the clauses in the will limiting his rights were unlawful and the result of Han writing the will himself, without legal assistance.
The council, citing New Republic law, decided that the prevailing law favored the intent of the will-writer in cases of holographic wills, and that, when intent could not be determined, such wills should be read as assigning Fee Simple titles, rather than Life Estate titles, unless a contrary intent is expressed in either the words or the context of the will.

The council found that, despite Han's phrasing, it was impossible to determine whether he meant to give the Falcon as a Life Estate or as a Fee Simple Absolute. They also found that the phrases limiting Chewbacca's rights to the ship were not strong enough to overcome the law's preference for passing Fee Simple titles, and therefore were unlawful limitations. The council awarded the ship in Fee Simple Absolute to Chewbacca, and voided the parts of Han's will restricting his rights to use the Millennium Falcon as he saw fit.

Williams v Thomas-Walker Furniture Co- (Federal Court of Appeals-DC Circuit, 1965)

Lando Calrissian is the Baron Administrator of Cloud City, on Bespin. In an attempt to stave off an invasion by the Empire, Lando makes a deal with Darth Vader, trading the rebel Han Solo and his companions for the continued survival and independence of the people he represents. However, Darth Vader uses high pressure tactics, like blackmail and threats of violence to induce a deal where he holds more bargaining power, and effectively removes any meaningful choice Lando might have had in negotiating the terms or in accepting the bargain. Additionally, Vader continually adds to and modifies the terms of the deal, allowing him to unfairly advantage until the deal is so one-sided that Lando no longer gains anything from the bargain. When Vader brings suit against Lando for breaking the deal and helping Han and Leia escape, the council will find that the deal is unconscionable, both procedurally (in the formation of the deal) and substantively (in the terms of the deal) and will refuse to enforce it as a matter of law.

Pierson v Post- (Supreme Court of Judicature of New York, 1805)

Biggs Darklighter is flying his T-16 down Beggar's Canyon, an unowned plot of land on Tatooine. Biggs locates and begins pursuing a wild womp rat. Just as he is about to corner the womp rat in a corner of the canyon and fire upon it, Luke Skywalker bullseyes the womp rat from his T-16 and makes off with it. Biggs files suit, claiming that Luke stole his womp rat. Looking to the logic of earlier authors, the council rules that even though Biggs was in pursuit, intent to possess and pursuit alone are not enough to convert the womp rat into property. Luke's intention of possession was made real by the act of mortally wounding the womp rat, sufficiently converting the womp rat into his property.

Portee v Jaffee- (Supreme Court of New Jersey, 1980)

Tusken Raiders abduct Anakin Skywalker's mother on Tatooine while Anakin is off learning to be a Jedi. She is tortured and the Sand People are basically all kinds of negligent with her. By the time Anakin arrives to rescue her, it's too late and she dies in his arms. This inflicts great emotional damage on Anakin, and as a result he heads further down the path that will lead him to the dark side. If Anakin hadn't murdered the whole tribe, he would have had a claim against the Tuskens for his emotional damages, even though they didn't directly harm him, because 1) he personally witnessed his mother's death, 2) he was in close proximity to her when she died (he would not have had a claim if he watched her death by hologram), 3) he and his mother were related, and 4) her death was a serious injury.

Monday, October 19, 2009

This thing is happening.


My name is Emma, and I go to a midwestern law school, along with my friend Tim. We are midway through our first year, and, as might be expected, need to go that extra mile to understand some of the new concepts and cases being thrown our way, especially when explaining to our friends why law school is so gosh darn hard.

We have come across a surprisingly universal analogy machine, which is called Star Wars. We have yet to find any law term or case that cannot be explained in Star Wars. So we figured we'd start sharing them with the world, because obviously this is something everyone needs to know.

Feel free to join in if you like, and welcome to Law Wars.

-Emma (+ Tim)

*Note- We are only 1L's, so most of the legal rules we write about are probably out of date. Please do not consider anything on this blog authoritative, and definitely do not take anything as legal advice. This blog is only meant as a way for us to blow off steam and make our classes a little more interesting. We are basically the opposite of professionals, and our opinions are worth absolutely nothing.*

*Note 2- While almost everything in this blog is based upon something in the Star Wars canon, it is not strictly canon, and will deviate as necessary.*