Legal Cases for Kids: An Introduction to Law for young curious minds

The present book constitutes, to our knowledge, the first attempt to introduce young minds to legal concepts and reasoning in three different languages (English, French and Greek) through the narration of civil law and common law court decisions or incidents/stories viewed from a legal perspective and written in simplified words. In particular, this book introduces mainly older elementary school students, teenagers and young adults to the study of law by narrating for the most part, in simplified words, the facts and conclusions of selected Canadian, United Kingdom and United States court decisions as well as important maritime incidents viewed from a legal standpoint. Different areas of law are touched upon by this book such as tort law (civil law, common law), maritime law and aboriginal law. 

The book starts with the story of the ancient Greek goddess of justice, Themis. It explains the need for justice to be impartial and to hear both parties. It continues with several tort cases from Québec, Canada (Ginn c. Sisson, civil law) the United Kingdom (Donoghue v. Stevenson), common law Canada (Arnold v. Teno) that introduce the reader to tort concepts such as ‘fault’ or the ‘reasonable person’ or child. These cases were specifically chosen to appeal to young minds since they involve children or very descriptive incidents (such as the snail in the bottle case). 

Aboriginal law and constitutional law are treated with the narration of the Canadian residential schools and reconciliation efforts. This is an important topic that teaches youth about the need to respect other cultures and a person’s right to education, family, freedom of expression and freedom of choice. Young minds can easily relate to this story as it talks about schools – albeit of a specific kind.

These first five stories are followed by five maritime cases/incidents such as the Prestige, this known oil tanker carrying 77 000 tons of fuel oil that sank off the coast of Galicia in Spain. The story introduces young minds to marine environmental issues and the work of the International Maritime Organisation and international funds present in this area.

The famous Titanic maritime disaster is also narrated from a legal standpoint with the objective of introducing youth to the issues posed in the area of maritime safety. General average, this ancient institution of maritime law is also examined through the narration of the 2012 Hanjin Osaka maritime incident. 

The piracy of the vessel Maersk Alabama that also became a Hollywood movie is another story of this book narrated in order to present this serious maritime issue to young minds. Finally, a story inspired by the American case Tessler Bros. (B.C.) Ltd v. Italpacific Line is also narrated in order to introduce youth to basic concepts in the area of maritime transport of goods such as the bills of lading and the need for international laws and uniformity to govern international ocean maritime transport of goods. All the mentioned maritime stories talk briefly about the advent of autonomous ships presenting some issues they raise.

Each of the ten stories of the book is accompanied by illustrations – made by the University of Ottawa talented law students – in order to help the young readers understand their content. The objective of the book is to familiarize mostly young minds with some basic concepts used in the legal field. This may lead youth around the world to further develop an interest for legal studies.

The author of the book, Marel Katsivela, is an Associate Professor of law at the faculty of law of the University of Ottawa (programme de common law en français) in Canada. One of her goals in her professional and personal life is to familiarise youth with basic legal concepts in her respective fields of specialisation: tort law, extracontractual liability (common law and civil law) and maritime law. The author believes in the respect of all legal traditions and languages and tries to reflect this in the book that treats several languages and legal systems.