April 2013 Bar Bulletin
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April 2013 Bar Bulletin

Law Library

Fundamental Cause of Action Resources

By Rita Dermody


With Rick Stroup, Assistant Director

The Public Law Library owns a variety of paper and electronic resources to help you identify causes or elements of an action. The two primary resources discussed below - usually the first two we refer patrons to for this type of research � are unique to our collection in that we have them available in both print and electronic formats so you can choose the medium you prefer.

Among the 61 volumes that comprise the venerable Washington Practice series, one deals specifically with the components of legal actions. Elements of an Action, by Prof. David K. DeWolf, is the best place to begin if you are focusing your research on Washington law. Coincidentally, Elements is both Volume 29 of Washington Practice and contains 29 chapters covering all major areas of tort law.

Each chapter follows the same structural pattern and includes overviews of the elements themselves, supporting authority, jury instructions, remedies, time limitations, defenses, counterclaims and a process checklist. Each chapter also includes sample forms such as complaints, affirmative defenses, jury instructions and jury verdict summaries.

Prof. DeWolf's examinations are concise and therefore easy to review. In practice, we often use Elements as a way to introduce patrons to the key concepts in a particular cause of action before referring them to a resource that covers the same topic in greater depth. If you are a browser, you will probably prefer the paper version and, practically speaking, are more likely to put your hands on what you want when you want it because the Public Law Library owns at least twice as many paper copies of Elements as public access Westlaw computers.

The electronic version is available through Westlaw as one of the "pieces" of the Washington Practice database and is therefore full-text searchable and completely integrated. Elements is shelved at KFW 80.W3 v.29 and circulating copies are available for members of our Subscriber Program.

The other major resource we use for this type of research is titled Causes of Action and is authored by a variety of experts under the auspices of Thomson-West. Now in two series, COA is national in scope and structured much like the venerable American Law Reports series. If there is an article within COA that addresses your particular action, you will find great depth of treatment, extensive references to supporting authority and numerous references to additional research materials.

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