Professor Michael Green recognized for outstanding scholarship, teaching during 2015 AALS annual meeting

Indiana University's Andrew Klein presents Professor Michael Green with the AALS Torts Section William L. Prosser Award

Indiana University's Andrew Klein presents Professor Michael Green with the AALS Torts Section William L. Prosser Award

Professor Michael Green was recognized by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Torts and Compensation Systems Section on Sunday, Jan. 4. The section presented Green with the annual William L. Prosser Award for outstanding contribution in scholarship, teaching and service related to tort law.

In attendance were Interim Dean Suzanne Reynolds (’77), Executive Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ron Wright and Associate Dean for Research and Development Jonathan Cardi, who was one of Green’s former law students. Also in attendance were a number of other Wake Forest Law faculty members and staff as well as Green’s three children, his wife, Carol, and his brother and sister.

Cardi told the group before presenting the award: “My father, Vince Cardi, is the reason I became a law professor.  My friend, colleague, mentor and in many ways my second father, Mike Green, is the reason I became a torts professor.”

In his acceptance speech, Green credited his students (including Cardi), his colleagues, his family, but mostly his wife, Carol. “I am very humbled by this award,” he said. “This was a signal honor and hard to believe that I belong among those who have won this award in the past, people I have so admired for their contributions to tort law over the years.”

Green also participated in the AALS Torts & Compensation Systems Section panel, entitled “Tort Law and a Healthier Society,” led by Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law’s Andrew Klein. Other panel participants were Michelle Mello, Stanford Law School; Dorit Reiss, University of California, Hastings College of the Law; and Diana Winters, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. The program focused on on leading issues at the intersection of tort and health law.

“I’d like to congratulate the 2015 AALS section award winners,” said Daniel B. Rodriguez, AALS president and dean of Northwestern University School of Law. “These law professors represent the very best of our academic community and their commitment to our students and excellence in our profession is rightly celebrated by these section awards.”

Following is an excerpt from Cardi’s Prosser Award presentation:

“Mike showed up to my class to teach us torts in the Fall of 1995 in a yellow short sleeve button-down shirt and a tie in 1980s pastels, and my first thought was practical, charismatic, and hmm, no pocket protector—he’s actually quite dashing for an engineer.

Since then, I have come to know Mike Green as the very model to which we law professors aspire.

Mike has taught practically every torts and civil procedure class there is and seems to have authored a casebook for every one.  He is a very animated teacher and gets so excited when a student is onto something interesting—turning to them, squinting his eyes in anticipation, and beckoning encouragingly.  (I think I do the same thing now, in unconscious emulation.)

He does not suffer unpreparedness with patience, and many students find him intimidating.  I thought he was hilarious and still do.  Mike is always in his office, door open, from 7:30 in the morning to 6 or 7 in the evening.  He takes groups of students to lunch, invites them to delicious meals at his home courtesy of his lovely wife, Carol, and takes students in for Thanksgiving if they are away from home—I was one of those grateful students.

As a scholar, Mike is simply Master of the Universe–of Torts, at least.  His 16 books, 13 book chapters, and 52 articles span the world of torts from foundational doctrine to aspects of torts litigation, scientific evidence, preemption, comparative law, and even constitutional law.  In looking back over Mike’s incredible body of work, it struck me that Mike’s scholarship—more than most—embodies some of his most salient personal values—justice, fairness, common sense, practicality, compassion, curiosity, and an eagerness to solve the most pernicious, recalcitrant problems.

Of course, the centerpiece of Mike’s scholarly life has been his work as Co-Reporter of the Restatement Third of Torts.  Having done a number of fifty-state surveys myself, it is simply staggering to consider the work that Mike and Bill Powers put into figuring out what the various state approaches are on so many difficult issues—and also in doing the hard, creative thinking to forge a best course for the law, and in balancing the input of so many interested constituents and beneficiaries of the ALI’s efforts.  Watching Mike go through this process, I was amazed by his diligence, his capacious vision, and his Obama-like cool under constant fire from so many directions.  The result is a Restatement vastly superior to its predecessor, and one that has the potential to drastically improve long-muddled areas of tort law like duty, causation, and apportionment—and it does so elegantly and in a way that will bring concrete improvements to the rule of law and substantive justice.

As I said at the outset, Mike Green is the very model of a law professor, and he has and will continue to make the tort world a better place.  But in my mind, Mike’s most enduring legacy is what he has given to the people in his life—chiefly, his wife Carol, his three amazing children, Abby, Brett, and Ross, and his friends, all of whom love him so much that they have traveled from the far corners of the country to be with him today.

Mike, thank you for all that you do and all that you are.”

Following is an excerpt from the second Prosser Award presenter, Ellen Bublick, Dan B. Dobbs Professor of Law:

The William L. Prosser award recognizes ‘outstanding contributions in scholarship, teaching and service in Torts and Compensation Systems’. It has been awarded to Torts luminaries including Fleming James, John Wade, Dan Dobbs, Guido Calabresi, Richard Posner, and Jane Stapleton, just to name a few. When Wex Malone bestowed the first Prosser Award on Leon Green, he said it was ‘designed to recognize a lifetime of truly outstanding contribution to the world of torts.’ When John Wade bestowed the award on Malone he said the award belongs to ‘a premier law professor’ who ‘seeks to improve the state of the law.’

‘Lifetime of outstanding contribution to the Torts field,’ ‘premier professor improving the state of the law’—these descriptors fit our 2015 Prosser awardee, Mike Green, to a tee.

Everyone in this room knows Mike Green’s work. (If you don’t, welcome to your first Torts section meeting, we are so delighted to have you here.) Mike is the author of a leading Torts casebook, two well-regarded advanced Torts books, one on Products Liability and one on Toxic Torts, and dozens of Tort-related articles. But he is best known as a Reporter for the American Law Institute’s Restatement Third of Torts on two projects: The Restatement Third of Torts: Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm and the Restatement Third of Torts: Apportionment of Liability, both of which he wrote with co-Reporter and friend Bill Powers of the University of Texas.

Several years ago Lance Liebman called and asked me to edit a book for the ALI, called The Concise Restatement of Torts. For the project, I read five Torts restatement projects, including Mike’s works and active sections of the Restatement Second of Torts. I selected key parts of each project and edited each text line by line to reduce thousands of pages down to just 400.

I’ve always appreciated Mike’s work, but reading the Restatement texts so closely,

I began to appreciate the full magnitude of the work that Mike, along with Bill, created. The structure of the Physical and Emotional Harms project, with a general duty for risk of physical harm and policy exceptions, and a general no-duty rule for risks not created by the actor and exceptions, is ingenious. The substance of the Restatement, in section after section, is lucid, informative, well researched and carefully thought through. And the style is clear and easy to access. From my time reading the work, I can say with conviction that on any subject in Torts, you would be well advised to begin your study with the Restatement view.

Because this award is named for Dean Prosser I want to say one thing further. We in the Torts section are not exactly the children of Moses trying to live up to the work of their father, but Prosser’s work was excellent and cast a great shadow. It could be fairly argued that the Restatement Second was expertly crafted and should simply have been retained. But reading the Restatement Third alongside the Restatement Second, I want to say that as great as Prosser the reporter and legend truly was, the Restatement Third physical injury project is an improvement on prior law and well deserves to be embraced by courts and scholars throughout the country, as it is increasingly is.

Now this is not to say that I agree with every part of Mike’s projects. Over the years, many of us have disagreed with different parts of those texts. But this actually brings me to another praise for Mike, which is the way he has embraced criticism and supported younger scholars. For me, the first time I spoke to Mike was when I was young and knew everything. In my first year of teaching I read a draft of the Restatement of Apportionment and was furious about some aspects of the proposed draft. At the urging of a colleague, I called Mike to offer my criticism. Despite my lack of seniority, Mike not only listened to my point of view, but invited me to participate in the Restatement process, asked me to send him the cases on which I relied, and ultimately made substantial changes to the draft which greatly improved it (at least to my view). This ability to listen to and even welcome different points of view is a type of respectful engagement with ideas and people that characterizes Mike and has had a profound and positive impact on the discourse within the Torts community.

As a scholar, a teacher of teachers, and as an exemplar, Mike’s contributions are outstanding.”

Following is an excerpt from Green’s acceptance speech:

“This is a tremendous honor and I’d like to express my appreciation to the Torts and Compensation Section, my nominators, Elly Bublick and Jonathan Cardi, and the Committee responsible for bestowing this award on me.  My thanks also to all of my Wake Forest colleagues who are here today in support and to share in this event.

I had a lot of torts to learn when I started teaching it in 1981. Law school was not much help in the torts department, I had a a brand-new law teacher, one year out of Yale Law School, who arrived at Penn after completing a judicial clerkship.

The casebook he adopted, the second edition of Shulman and James was 20 years old in 1972—the used book market wasn’t quite so robust back then—and contained nothing about comparative fault, contribution or strict products liability.

Ironic, how now, half a century later, the treatment of products liability in that book has reverted to currency.

That text began with an explanation of the forms of action at common law: ‘The metaphor which likens the chancery to a shop is trite; we will liken it to an armory. It contains every weapon of medieval warfare from the two-handed sword to the poniard.’

Wonder what a poniard is? So did I.

Finally we got to tort cases and I dug into such classics as Dickinson v. Watson, a 1682 King’s Bench case, which contains such language such as: ne aliquod damnun eveniret and casualiter viam illam procterivit.

So, now I was really getting deep into tort law. And my knowledge was expanded by reading an excerpt from the Statute of Westminster—enacted in 1285—with such pithy provisions as:

‘Forasmuch as form Day to Day, Robberies, Murthers, Burnings, & Theft, be more often used than they have been heretofore, and Felons cannot be attained by the Oath of Jurors, which had rather suffer Strangers to be robbed . . .’

I became concerned that I had picked up the wrong book to prepare for my torts class the next day, but I wasn’t taking criminal law at the time.

Suffice it to say . . . I, like my students in the fall of 1981, had a lot to learn about torts. Thankfully , I’ve been blessed with some wonderful  teachers, mentors, and collaborators to whom I owe much for what tort law I have learned.

Marc Franklin and Bob Rabin had an excellent torts casebook, at the time in the third edition, that I had the wisdom to adopt. That book provided much of the remedial torts that I needed.

In the early 1990s, I joined with Bill Powers to work on the Restatement on Apportionment of Liability. In addition to teaching me something new about torts every time we talked, Bill taught me a great deal about character, integrity, and generosity.

I had the great fortune to work with Bill for almost 20 years, soaking up what he taught me and sometimes having the temerity to spar with him over issues on which we disagreed. Every moment of our collaboration was, as Bill would put it, fun.

As Bill and I were finishing our work, Bob Rabin, who received the Prosser award seven years ago, called me. Marc Franklin was retiring and Bob wanted to know if I would step in assist him with the next edition of a book had been teaching torts from for almost 20 years.

That began a collaboration as educational, rich, and rewarding as one could ask for, along with a great friendship with the torts mensch of our generation. It also afforded me some individual tutoring from the torts mensch of my generation.

I could not conclude this explanation of my torts education without mentioning two other important people in my career.

My lifelong friend, Bonnie Brier, who set me off investigating the morning sickness drug Bendectin that led to much of my early scholarship in the area of toxic torts, causation, and epidemiology, subjects that that have given me so much pleasure researching and writing about over the years.

Jonathan Cardi, once my student, now my colleague and collaborator has been a cherished gift of my time teaching at Iowa. He is emblematic of how much I owe to the students I have taught during my career.

There are some other very special people in my life who are here today to celebrate this award with me. My three children, Abby, Brett, and Ross, have inspired and challenged me for decades. My two children-in-law, Nathan Singh and Joanna Green, are also here as is my brother, Alan Green, and my sister, Maddy Carignan.

I’ll bet you’ve never heard the word “machitainista.” There’s not a comparable English word but it refers to a relative of your in-law. So my son-in-law Nathan’s sister, Reva Singh, who is also the most outstanding first year law student at Wake Forest University is also here with us.

Finally, I must address the most meaningful and important collaboration of my life: My wife Carol who has supported me at every turn, enabled me to teach and write during those dark and cold winter days in Iowa, and who taught me so many lessons about life, family, and parenting, I cannot adequately express my gratitude in words.

To all who made this award possible, thank you once more.”

Professor Green is a nationally and internationally recognized torts teacher and scholar. He served as Co-Reporter for the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm, Green and his Co-Reporter President and Professor William C. Powers Jr. of the University of Texas were jointly honored with the John G. Fleming Memorial Prize for Torts Scholarship in 2012. Green is a member of the European Group on Tort Law, which prepared and published the Principles of European Tort Law in 2005. He is a founding member and Executive Committee member of the World Tort Law Society, an organization of torts scholars from Europe, Asia and the Americas.