When one party damages another party, in a non-criminal context, the aggrieved party is entitled to restitution. This is one of the most important concepts of tort law. In other words, making a party legally responsible for damages is the main purpose of tort law. A judge or jury will attempt to determine exactly what needs to be done when an aggrieved party can demonstrate damages, and what those damages should be in order to return the aggrieved party to the state that they were in prior to the alleged action. Of course, no one can go back in time and change what happened; therefore, damages are always paid in the form of money.
One reason why torts are important in a business context is that virtually all commercial enterprises deal with the public by providing products, services, or other commercially relevant activity. Unfortunately, consumers often suffer harm due to unintentional (or, rarely, intentional) damages caused by faulty products or negligent services.
Criminal penalties cannot be attached to business entities. If a crime is committed, the government charges speciﬁc individuals within the corporation who may be responsible, not the business entity. Yet, society recognizes that businesses, out of negligence, ignorance, or malfeasance, may cause injury to another party. Tort law imposes standards by which such injured parties can seek recompense from the corporation in civil court. Whereas an entire corporate entity cannot be tried in a criminal court, it can be a defendant in a civil court. Keep in mind that there is a significant difference between tort law and criminal law. Criminal penalties could be applied to individuals if there is evidence of an illegal motive or criminal negligence. Torts, on the other hand, typically involve negligence, which is a breach of a duty of care.
Tort law is based on the notion that if one party harms another intentionally or by being careless or reckless (“negligent”), then the aggrieved party may be entitled to restitution and be made “whole.” In some cases, there is strict liability, as in cases of defective products. If a product is found to be inherently unsafe or defective, strict liability is imposed; "strict" means that neither intent nor negligence needs to be proven.
Sometimes, a tort may also be a crime, as in the case of assault. Such a case can be brought both civilly and criminally. Here, we are only concerned with civil court cases. The court (using a judge or jury as fact-finder) will attempt to determine what damages are appropriate where a tort has been committed.
A court will attempt to determine exactly what needs to be done when an aggrieved party can demonstrate damages, and what those damages should be, in order to return a party to its state prior to the alleged action. This remedy is almost always money because, in reality, no one can go back and undo the wrongful action.
The first step in preparing your case law analysis is to locate a published court decision and select an organization you believe would be impacted by the decision.
The Case Analysis Report: Executive Briefing Exemplar [DOCX] shows a sample case law analysis. You may wish to refer to it as you work on your assessment.
Once you have selected a decision and an organization impacted by the decision, assume you’re a senior manager in the organization you selected and that you were asked to prepare an analysis of the court decision and brief the executive team of the organization about the impact the case might have on the company. Your briefing should include a summary of the case, as well as an evaluation of how the court’s decision impacts the organization from a business, legal, and ethical perspective. Be sure to list your case citation in the References page at the end of your briefing.
Step 1: Exhibit information literacy skills as applied to business law.
Step 2: Summarize the facts and ruling of a legal case and its impact on businesses.
Step 3: Explain how the court decision impacts legal and ethical compliance in a business environment.
Step 4: Explain how a legal case could impact a specific organization not a party to the case.
Based on your executive audience, your executive briefing should be no more than three pages, in addition to a References page, and should be well organized and written in clear, succinct language. Follow APA rules for attributing content to sources that support your analysis and conclusions.
Your submission should meet the following requirements:
Review the assessment scoring guide for details on how your assessment will be graded.
By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the course competencies through the following assessment scoring guide criteria:
Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc.
132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012).
Parties: Mayo Collaborative Services and Prometheus Laboratories, Inc.
Court and Date Decided: United States Supreme Court (Decided March 20, 2012)
Background Facts: Prometheus Laboratories sued Mayo Collaborative Services for patent infringement. The drug thiopurine, used for autoimmune disorders, is metabolized differently by different people, making dosing difficult. Prometheus created a process to check the level of the drug in a person’s body. Prometheus obtained a patent for the blood testing process. Mayo was a customer of Prometheus until Mayo decided to create its own measuring process for dosing. Prometheus then proceeded with the lawsuit for infringement. At the federal district court where the trial occurred, the court found that there was patent infringement, but that the patent should not have been granted in the first place because the tests for toxicity are based on natural laws and natural phenomena and are not patentable. On appeal to the circuit court of appeals, the federal circuit reversed, finding that the test was patentable. Lastly, on appeal to the Supreme Court, the court reversed again and found that natural processes cannot be patented because this would inhibit future scientific discovery by “improperly tying up the use of the laws of nature.”
Specific Disagreement and Ruling of the Court
The majority opinion of the court was delivered by Justice Breyer with no dissent. The opinion looked at the law governing what can be patented. It noted that Einstein could not have patented E=MC² and neither could Newton have patented the law of gravity. So, why was this matter even taken to court? Or, perhaps a better question is, why did the appeals court find the toxicity test patentable? The reason is that the existing patent law legal test used by the courts (called the “machine or transformation” test) requires that something be transformed (and not just in its natural state) to receive a patent. The appeals court thought that the human body was changed or transformed when the blood test was administered so the blood could be analyzed. However, the Supreme Court found that the test itself, which is what was patented, did not change the human body. It was only the potentially toxic drug that changed the body, and the test was developed using laws of nature to determine if there was toxicity. The court also discussed that when it comes to patent law, there are always going to be two competing interests: the interest of society to grant patents to incentivize investment of time and money into creating innovative products and processes vs. the interest of society in not tying up natural laws and processes to allow for more innovation by inventors.
Conclusion- Importance to Business Law & Ethical Implications
I agree with this decision. I have long thought that things like genes, for example, should not be patentable because they exist in nature. Neither should math be patentable. However, experts who know a lot more than I do have criticized this decision because it is said to create confusion about just what is patentable subject matter, since evidently there are sometimes patents given to those who have reproduced natural processes (Eisenberg, 2011).
This case has strong application to business because it’s very important to know what is and what is not patentable since businesses invest vast resources into research and development of products and ideas. This case can negatively affect businesses that invest money and talent in analyzing genes only to find they cannot patent genes because they are naturally occurring. On the other hand, the case can positively affect businesses that use those genes that are naturally occurring, knowing that they will not be infringing on a patent. Our company, Intellia Therapeutics, develops therapies by editing genes (in a way that is not naturally occurring) to heal diseased cells. We might be impacted by this decision because such a product would require a patent in order to be profitable and marketed exclusively. Any attempt to interfere with the ability to patent our products (as Prometheus experienced) would threaten the company’s profitability. I would recommend that Intellia Therapeutics monitor legal cases regarding patentability of medicines that use biotechnology to ensure their patents are safe from challenges of validity.
I think the parties in the case conducted themselves ethically. Prometheus might have felt that Mayo, its former customer, was stepping on its toes by copying its test, but this is not necessarily unethical because it’s a competitive world out there. According to Teleology Theory, a theory of ethics, no one acted unethically here because this theory judges the morality of an action based on the outcome. Here, the outcome was that the test was not patentable; therefore, Mayo was not doing anything wrong.
Eisenberg, R. S. (2011). Wisdom of the ages or deadhand control? Patentable subject matter for diagnostic methods after In re Bilski. University of Michigan Law Review.
Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, 132 U.S. 1289 (2012).
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