A Story in Every Sentence

The thing about studying cases as a way of learning law is that behind every case is a story. That story is almost always the story of how a situation that was once good went horribly wrong. The pages of a casebook provide a fair cross-section of human hubris, betrayal, confusion, and misery.

Sometimes, though, a case comes along and floors you with the way it retells that story. I came across one of those cases today. Well, actually, I didn't come across the case itself; I came across a citation to the case. But that citation is probably most devastatingly well-written citation I have ever seen. Even through the formalities required by the legal citation style, it tells the story of a tragedy in a single sad and knowing sentence.

The courts have been generous to patrons of enterprises, like carriers, which traditionally are subjected to a "high duty of care." . . . They have been less generous to customers injured in bank hold-ups, Boyd v. Racine Currency Exchange, 56 Ill. 2d 95, 306 N.E.2d 39 (1973) (teller under no duty to accede to robber's demands, when robber held gun to head of customer, plaintiff's decedent).

Harry Shulman et al., Cases and Materials on the Law of Torts 625 (3d ed. 1970).