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Law and Popular Culture

A Course Book (2nd Edition)


Michael Asimow and Shannon Mader

Both law and popular culture pervade our lives. Popular culture constructs our perceptions of law and changes the way that players in the legal system behave. Now in its second edition, Law and Popular Culture: A Course Book explores the interface between two subjects of enormous importance to everyone – law and popular culture.
Each chapter takes a particular legally themed film or television show, such as Philadelphia, Dead Man Walking, or Law and Order, treating it as both a cultural text and a legal text.
The new edition has been updated with new photos and includes greater emphasis on television than in the first edition because there are so many DVDs of older TV shows now available.
Law and Popular Culture is written in an accessible and engaging style, without theoretical jargon, and can serve as a basic text for undergraduates or graduate courses and be taught by anyone who enjoys pop culture and is interested in law. An instructor’s manual is available on request from the publisher and author.
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12. The Civil Justice System: Assigned Film: A Civil Action (1998)


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The Civil Justice System

Assigned Film: A Civil Action (1998)1

12.01 The civil justice process

This section (¶12.01) describes the process of civil litigation, meaning judicial resolution of disputes that do not involve criminal sanctions. Law students who are already familiar with civil procedure may wish to skip this part.

12.01.1 Civil cases

In a civil case, the plaintiff goes to court to seek a remedy (usually money) from the defendant. The vast majority of civil disputes (well over 90%) are settled by the parties out of court or resolved by pretrial motions. Only a small minority of civil disputes actually result in trials. In many cases, professional mediators assist the parties in finding a mutually agreeable settlement. However, the settlement process broke down badly in the Woburn litigation described in A Civil Action (see ¶12.06).

The majority of civil claims arise out of torts or contracts. A tort case is based on an injury done by defendant to plaintiff. Examples of tort cases are a routine auto accident case, a “toxic tort” case as in A Civil Action, a “product liability” case like the exploding gas tank in Class Action (1990), a medical malpractice case as in The Verdict (Chapter 4), or a civil rights case as in Philadelphia (Chapter 13). Contract cases arise out of deals and broken promises. ← 241 | 242 →

One of the plaintiffs in the...

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