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Contract Defenses, Socratic Method, Law School


This piece focuses on the discovery of a T-Rex skeleton, and the contract formed between the private fossil collectors and the Native American rancher who ostensibly owned the land where the fossil was situated. Although the fossil was eventually sold at auction for over eight million dollars, the fossil collectors paid the rancher only $5,000 for its excavation. In addition to the rancher, the Sioux tribe and the Department of Justice also became involved in the case.

As described in my work, the law school Socratic method has come under attack in recent years. In response to such criticisms, the lesson that I describe provides a constructive alternative, using problem-based learning and technology. When discussing the contract between the rancher and the fossil hunters, my students effectively analyzed the doctrines of unilateral mistake, unequal bargaining power, unconscionability, and the failure of a condition. Using the T-Rex case is a great way to get law students excited about learning contract defenses.