Why: Case law is an important source of law in the American legal system. Courts make decisions and write opinions on a variety of topics. Some of those decisions interpret other sources of law: statutes, administrative regulations, and the constitution. Because courts today make decisions that affect every aspect of our lives (surrogacy, civil liberties, religion in the schools), everyone should know how to analyze a case.
1. To identify the facts, procedural history, the law, and the application of the law to the facts of a case.
2. To identify the sources of law a court relies on in its opinion.
3. To reflect on how changes in the law could affect the legal system.
1. Oberschlake v. Veterinary Associates Animal Hospital
2. Information provided in this activity.
In the last activity, we discussed how to read a case. In today’s activity, we are going to focus on the keys to analyzing a case. In order to analyze a case, we need to know how to pick out what is most important in a case. Today, we are going to go through the Oberschlake case.
As we noted in our last activity, the case starts with the facts. The facts in Oberschlake were fairly straightforward. The family dog was taken to the vet’s office to have her teeth cleaned. The vet mistakenly tried to spay the dog, but the dog had already been spayed. The dog was left with a three-inch scar. These events are what led to the lawsuit. When analyzing the case, we look at the critical facts. The fact that the dog’s name was Poopi or that the mistake took place in March, 2001 are not relevant to our understanding of the issues in this particular case.
The next part of the case is what is known as procedural history. Procedural history tells us the legal basis for the plaintiff’s lawsuit (cause of action), the defendant’s response, and what the trial court did. As we discussed in our previous activity, most of the cases we read have been decided by Courts of Appeals. Next, the court lists the assignment of error. The assignments of error help us determine the issues in the case, or the court’s main focus. The court then discusses the law that relates to the issues and then how the law applies to the facts of the case it is deciding. You will notice when you read cases that the courts may cite statutes or previous cases. Courts are required to follow statutes and cases from higher courts. Our system is a common law system, which means that in deciding a case, courts are required to rely on previous decisions from higher courts, known as precedent.
Critical Thinking Questions:
1. What is procedural history?
2. When making a decision, why do courts often rely on (cite) previous cases?
3. A. In paragraphs 7 and 8, the court referred to R.C. 955.03. Under that statute, how are dogs classified?
B. What is the definition of personal property? Use this link to find the definition.http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/personalproperty.asp#axzz20nZUp6f7
4. Refer to Paragraph 14 of Oberschlake.
A. What arguments did the plaintiffs make?
B. The plaintiffs relied on Corso v. Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital Inc. in support of their argument. What did the Corso case say?
C. What did the Oberschlake court say about the Corso case?
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