WAR STORIES—THE HAIRY HAND. One of the other sections in my first year (there were four sections, each with over 100 students), gave rise to a law student war story in which the student came out on top. The events took place on the first or second day of classes, and involved Hawkins v. McGee, a case which often leads off the contracts course. (It is featured in THE PAPER CHASE, both book and movie.) The case is described in this wikipedia article. The doctor who contracted to perform a skin graft on Hawkins’s hand “guaranteed to make the injured hand a ‘one hundred percent good hand'”, but took the new skin from the chest area, thus creating the “hairy hand.” If you have not attended law school, it may not occur to you that the case is important for its holding on contract damages. The court held that Hawkins was entitled to expectation damages, “the difference between the value of what Hawkins was promised to receive–a ‘one hundred percent good hand’– and what he in fact received–a hairy palm” All this was brought out in the Socratic questioning. What happened next is what made for the war story. There had also been a malpractice claim which had been dismissed. As I heard the story, the professor asked the student he had been questioning what he thought of the malpractice claim. The student ventured that it was malpractice, that “no doctor worth his salt would make this mistake.” The Socratic questioner struck, asking sarcastically, “How do you know, are you a doctor?” The answer was yes. This was the only doctor in our class. The story was all over the school 15 minutes after the end of class.

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  1. Mary Jane Schaefer says:

    When I was a doctor. . .when I was an airplane pilot. . .when I was a nuclear physicist. . .

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