Bar Exams, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Lunacy

A Bar Exam Parody / Hypothetical, Courtesy of Elizabeth Wurtzel

For some of you, the bar exam starts tomorrow. Your friends at Above the Law — and our bar-related advertisers, including Kaplan PMBR and BarMax — wish you the best of luck.

If you’re looking for more review questions, check out our post from yesterday, based on Professor Laurence Tribe’s unfortunate incident at a Safeway supermarket. A few of you have already posted impressive responses, suggesting that you’re going to ace the big test.

But the Larry Tribe fact pattern would have been labeled “EASY.” Here’s something far more challenging, from writer-turned-lawyer Elizabeth Wurtzel, who explains:

When I was studying for the bar for the first time in New Haven, in my total frustration, I wrote a parody of a bar exam question, or may be of a Barbri question. I posted it on the Wall at YLS [Yale Law School’s list-serv], and I am told that ever since it has been reposted every bar exam season.

I have gotten suggestions that I publish it, and a couple of people have actually attempted to answer it, which is crazy. In any case, do what you want with it.

It is hilarious, and insane, and it will make your head hurt — or explode. Check it out below….


You are walking through Central Park, which by chance is property of the city of New York, when you notice a large structure with an open front face. It is marked “Property of the State of New York.” Being curious, you walk in and find yourself in a wind tunnel. You know this because a propeller from an industrial fan comes flying at you and knocks you over. You are certain you have a concussion. As you are about to stand up and recover your composure, a man comes toward you with a vacuum cleaner, and astonished to see you lying there, he lets the huge thing fly out of his hands and it runs you over, breaking various limbs. He is an employee of Highly Hazardous E-Stop-L Cleaning Service of Bayonne, New Jersey and his name is Jose. He lives in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on work release from the Department of Corrections, where he was incarcerated for narcotics possession and related crimes.

Jose has taken his Adderall today, but not as instructed: he has taken seven pills instead of one, even though the packaging inside warns not to operate heavy machinery if you are taking any amount of the medication. He was prescribed the Adderall by a general practitioner through his HMO, which is part of a Connecticut state plan for the uninsured. His doctor has no special knowledge about psychopharmacological drugs. As Jose is jumping up and down and pulling the vacuum cleaner off of you, the ceiling caves in. It is made out of glass because this is an experiment in combining solar and wind energy for greater efficiency, which is being conducted jointly by a professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a researcher affiliated with Columbia University, underwritten by a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency, with additional funding from Cos Cob Venture Partners, LLP, of Greenwich, Connecticut. Glass shards are everywhere. The structure is over six years old, and the architect resides in Vermont, with offices in Hanover, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine, though the contract to build the structure was signed on Long Island. The contractor who was subcontracted by the architect to do the construction is based in Lynn, Massachusetts, and incorporated in the Cayman Islands.

Just as you and Jose are about to stand up amid the glass, propeller and vacuum cleaner parts, you smell fumes: apparently there is a gas leak from the heating system that was installed to keep workers warm during the winter. Both of you faint. At this moment, 22 children, ages nine and ten, come rushing into the shack to see what’s going on, and all of them faint as well, but one of them first throws his model airplane into the air, and the glue makes the fumes even more poisonous. Soon there are 24 bodies all in a heap. An employee of the Central Park Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization, who is chopping up some wood nearby, comes rushing over to see what has happened, axe in hand. As he approaches, the blade looses from the handle, flies through the open face of the shack, and strikes Jose in the hip.

When you finally make it to the hospital, there is so much confusion that the doctor accidentally puts a pacemaker into you. One of Jose’s legs has been amputated because he has been mistaken for another Hispanic shooting victim, though the injuries are not the same. Despite his deep confusion, Jose has so much Adderall in his system that he hears the doctor say, “These spics — they’re always getting into trouble.” It is a state hospital. In the meantime, CNN cameras have rode along in the ambulance with you to the hospital and taken footage of you looking all bloody, and you were in no condition to stop it. You feel humiliated and ashamed — insult to injury.


Here are all the parties: You, Jose, the state of New York, the city of New York, the Environmental Protection Agency, MIT, Columbia University, Cos Cob Venture Partners, CNN, the state hospital, the state of Connecticut, Jose’s general practitioner, your doctor at the hospital, Jose’s doctor at the hospital, 22 nine- and ten-year-olds, the Central Park Conservancy, the man with the axe, the heating company, the manufacturer of the heating unit, the gas company, the architect, the construction company, Highly Hazardous E-Stop-L Cleaning Service, the axe manufacturer, the blade manufacturer, the model airplane manufacturer, the glue manufacturer, the manufacturer of the vacuum cleaner, the manufacturer of Adderall, the HMO, the manufacturer of the wind tunnel, the manufacturer of the fan, God almighty.

  • Who can sue whom? How many lawsuits can we get out of this? Are there assignment and delegation possibilities? Third-party defendants? Comparative liabilities? Contributory liabilities? Joint and several liabilities? Cross claims? Countersuits? Diagrams are not an acceptable answer.

  • Can the children’s parents be sued for bringing them into the world?
  • Can you be sued for trespass to lands?
  • What are your claims against the state of New York?
  • What are your claims against the city of New York?
  • What are your claims against the government of the United States?
  • In which court would you sue, assuming you have claims?
  • Are there First Amendment problems here?
  • Are there Fourteenth Amendment issues here?
  • Is there any way to get personal jurisdiction over the architect? The contractor?
  • Can New York City sue New York State? Can New York sue Connecticut? Can any state sue the United States? Who has jurisdiction?
  • If there is an appeal, where will it end up?
  • If Jose dies because of all this, and is intestate, will New York law apply?
  • Will any law apply to any of this, or is this just a very unfortunate way to spend a day?

Earlier: Potential Lawsuit / Bar Exam Review Question of the Day: Laurence Tribe v. Safeway?

(hidden for your protection)

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