If you’re taking Civil Procedure, Evidence, a UCC-based course, or any other course involving rules or statutes, consider how the rules or statutes (I’ll use the terms interchangeably) will affect your approach to answering exam questions. Reaching the correct conclusion depends on applying and interpreting statutory language. This requires a meticulous, step-by-step approach. Here I’ll set out a technique you can use on practice exams and on your finals, breaking it down and then illustrating it with a simple example from the UCC.
Read carefully. You can’t afford to skim or rush through reading a statute. Proceed word by word, considering what each word means and how it relates to the rest of the statute. Of course, you should already be familiar with key rules and statutes prior to your final exam.
Refer to related rules or sections of the code. Each rule or section exists in the context of a cohesive scheme. For example, you can’t apply 28 U.S.C. § 1367, Supplemental Jurisdiction, without referring to the Rules it mentions. If a statute you’re reading refers to another section, look it up!
Define terms. Many statutes, including the UCC, provide definitions. If you’re reading a statutory section that uses a defined term, you must locate, understand, and apply the definition.
I’ve included referenced sections and definitions as “cross-references” in the example below.
Connect the facts to the rule. To apply the statute, you must connect the facts of your hypo to the elements of the rule. Do not take anything for granted; even if something seems obvious, you need to use the facts to prove it. This is part of “thinking like a lawyer”: when you write an exam answer, you bear the burden of proof on every fact you’re trying to establish. Be sure to use all the facts provided.
Jill bought a toaster at Appliance Barn (“AB”), a retailer that sells household appliances. She used the toaster at her home without incident for one week. Jill’s daughter, Jackie, is a law student who resides during the school year in an apartment near campus. Two weeks after Jill bought the toaster, Jackie returned to Jill’s home for spring break. One morning Jackie put a slice of bread in the toaster. As soon as she pressed the lever, the toaster burst into flames, causing burns on Jackie’s arm. Can Jackie recover from AB for her injuries under UCC § 2-318 Alternative A?
UCC § 2-318 Alternative A
A seller’s warranty whether express or implied extends to any natural person who is in the family or household of his buyer or who is a guest in his home if it is reasonable to expect that such person may use, consume or be affected by the goods and who is injured in person by breach of the warranty. A seller may not exclude or limit the operation of this section.
|§ 2-318 and Cross References||Application to Facts|
Seller, § 2-103(1)(d)
Goods, § 2-105(1)
|AB is a seller because it sells goods. Toasters are goods because they are movable at the time of identification to the contract for sale.|
|warranty whether express or implied
Implied warranty of merchantability, § 2-314
Merchant, § 2-104(1)
Exclusion or modification of warranties, § 2-316
|The implied warranty of merchantability applies. AB is a merchant because it deals in goods of the kind involved in the transaction (toaster). Merchantable goods are fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used. A toaster is warranted to be fit for the purpose of toasting bread. There is no evidence that AB tried to exclude or modify the warranty.|
|extends to any natural person||Jackie is a natural person; she is a human being.|
|who is in the family or household||Jackie is in Jill’s family — daughter.|
|of his buyer
Buyer, § 2-103(1)(a)
|Jill is a buyer because she bought goods – the toaster.|
|or who is a guest in his home||Jackie may be a guest in Jill’s home because she lives elsewhere most of the time.|
|if it is reasonable to expect that such person may use, consume or be affected by the goods||It’s reasonable to expect a family member or guest to use a toaster to prepare food in the home.|
|and who is injured in person||Jackie was injured in person; her arm was burned.|
|by breach of the warranty||A toaster should not burst into flames when being used for its ordinary purpose – toasting bread. This is a breach of warranty.|
|a seller may not exclude or limit operation of this section.||AB cannot exclude or limit operation of this section, so Jackie can recover.|
In IRAC terms, the left column is the Rule; the right column is the Application or Analysis. Use this outline to fully develop a well-written answer.
Try this approach on your next statutory question!
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