Highlights from a Property Exam

It’s springtime, so a professor’s fancy turns to — grading exams.  Well, not fancy, but it is part of the job — perhaps the most boring.

That’s why I’m so grateful to those students who inject levity into the task — whether they intended to do so or not.  Students are writing quickly, so sometimes they say things that they don’t quite mean.  Consider these gems from my Property exam.

One student, when discussing the Implied Warranty of Habitability, says that a court will ask whether an apartment is “unfit in the view of a personable person.”  What is a personable person?  Perhaps more importantly, what is an unpersonable person?  Maybe that should be my next book project: Property and Zombies.

Another writes about the famous case of Moore v. UC Regents, which asked whether someone’s removed spleen was his property.  This case, says the student, “showcased the spleen of a special man.”  Well, maybe his mother thought he was special, but it is more likely that the spleen was special.

And finally, some students demonstrate their ability to be law professors, by coming up with creative hypotheticals.  Certainly this one would not come about just from writing too quickly.  Discussing the “law of accession,” which concerns the question of relative property rights when one person has added value to the property of the other.  The student hypothesizes a person who owns a block of wood:

So, if he hires an artist to make him a sculpture of Simba from the Lion King, he owns that added value.  On the other hand, the artist could feasibly have a reliance interest on that sculpture of Simba.  Say she wants to send a picture of it to Pixar for a portfolio she’s putting together in order to become an animator there, and Pixar is then so impressed with it that it wants her to send the completed sculpture itself so that Pixar can further evaluate her talent.

Only in Los Angeles, I suppose.

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Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic – Land Use, the Environment and Loc…

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