Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/7/13: The Duty To Rescue

Most common law countries impose no general duty to rescue another person, and therefore typically impose no liability for failing to do so. There are two exceptions to this: (a) people who create a hazardous situation, regardless of whether they did so negligently, are … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/30/13: The Castle Doctrine and ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws

The George Zimmerman case shone a spotlight on Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law, an extension of the “castle doctrine” which is an ancient common law concept that a homeowner has no duty to retreat when threatened within his or her home by a third party. The … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/16/13: The Crime of Arson

Under the common law, originally there were only two felonies related to injuries to a home. The first was the criminal invasion of a home, or burglary (originally known as “house breach”), while the more serious of the two involved … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/9/13: The ‘Public Benefit’ Corporation

In addition to the standard for-profit and limited-liability model of the traditional corporation, other variants exist. A public-benefit corporation is state-chartered and designed  to perform some public benefit, such as the MBTA and Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. A B Corporation is a corporation … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/2/13: Mayhem!

While the word mayhem is often used in the context of describing chaos, confusion, rioting and disorder, that is neither its original meaning nor its legal definition. The etymology of mayhem has its roots in Anglo-Norman French, derived from Old … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/22/13: The Origins of ‘On the Lam’

Events of this past week in Boston prompted me to look into the origins of an expression I heard quite often on the news: on the lam. Meaning to be a fugitive from the law, the etymology of this idiomatic expression … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/15/13: Estate and Inheritance Taxes

An estate tax is levied before an estate is distributed to heirs, while an inheritance tax is levied against the beneficiaries after it is distributed. The federal government recently raised the estate tax exemption to $5.25 million, but 21 states … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/8/13: Alienation of Affection

One of the most common 19th century civil suits was for alienation of affection, awarding damages to litigants whose marriages disintegrated due to the actions of a third party. In order for a plaintiff to prevail, he or she had … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 3/25/13: Workers’ Compensation (or Lack Thereof)

Historically it was very difficult for employees injured on the job to recover damages, based on three concepts in labor law: assumption of risk, which stated that a worker had knowingly assumed the risks of working and was always free to … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 3/4/13: An Eye For An Eye

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a theory of retributive justice, focusing on retaliation rather than compensating the victim. This principle first appeared in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (hundreds of years earlier than similar … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/18/13: The Meaning of ‘Rap’

The word rap – referring originally to a mild form of rebuke (such as to rap one’s knuckles) – by the late 18th century referred to punishment or blame for serious offences. By the early 19th century, it entered American … Continue reading