Law students are to answer law problem questions in a special way that addresses the issues arising from the problem presented. To do this, law students have to solve law problem question using IRAC method.
IRAC is an abbreviation which in full means, Issues, Relevant Law (Rule), Analysis, Conclusion. In this article, we take a look at how to solve questions using IRAC and also consider a solved sample question, so you know how it’s done.
How to Solve Any Law Problem Question Using IRAC
Raise the Issues
When given a law problem question, your lecturer expects you to identify and raise the issues in contention and not the obvious uncontested ones.
You must raise the issues based on law. This can be case law, statute, constitutional law or even common law where it applies. Keep your eye out for the grey areas where the parties are likely to disagree based on law from the given set of facts.
Relevant law (Rule)
This is the easiest part because you have this in mind already as you raised the issue. Here, you state the relevant law that concern the issue raised and cite the authority. The authority can be inter alia, Case law, a statute or constitution.
It is here that you apply the law to the facts. Don’t manufacture facts or address anything outside of the facts. Analyze the position of the authority cited above on the facts presented by the law problem question. Even though when properly done, the leaning of the case will be obvious, do not conclude yet.
This is where you bring it all to bear. Make a definite statement on what you think the outcome will be based on your application of the relevant law to the facts. Where the question asks you to advise the parties, do so based on your conclusion.
IRAC example with multiple issues
Below is an IRAC example question with multiple issues which has been addressed according to how law students are expected to resolve issues raised using IRAC.
Kojo was taking a walk when he met two boys, Emma and Wiafe making fun of a mad man, popularly known as “Atta -Ayi” who was sitting by the side of the road. When he advised the boys to stop, they ignored him. Kojo gave a cane to Atta -Ayi and asked him to whip the boys if they continue to make fun of him.
As the boys continued to make fun of him, Atta- Ayi rushed on the boys and gave them severe beatings with the cane. Emma sustained an injury in the eye while Wiafe sustained a cut at the back. Kojo immediately fled from the scene. Passersby overpowered Atta -Ayi and handed him over to the police. Emma and Wiafe were rushed to the hospital. At that time, the hospital had been overwhelmed by a number of accident victims who had been rushed there and which the doctors were attending to. The doctor who attended to Emma was one of the doctors who were also attending to the accident victims. Due to the pressure on him, the doctor failed to do a proper diagnosis of Emma’s injury and the treatment led to Emma going blind in the eye.
Wiafe’s wounds were treated, and he was discharged. The doctors however requested that Wiafe comes to the hospital daily for dressing as he was diabetic. They warned him that if the wounds get infected, his condition could become fatal. Wiafe however failed to visit the hospital again. Thirteen (13) months later, Wiafe was rushed to the hospital with infections of the wounds. He died of the infections of the wounds. The police have also arrested Kojo with regard to the harm to Emma’s eye and the death of Wiafe.
QUESTION: What are the issues arising out of this problem question and how do you resolve them?
Whether or not Kojo is liable for the harm caused to Wiafe and Emma.
The relevant principle of law is seen in Section 13(1) of Act 29 which states that “a person who intentionally causes an involuntary agent to cause an event, shall be deemed to have caused the event.”
An involuntary agent is defined by Section 13(2) of Act 29 to include any animal or thing and also a person who is exempted from criminal liability for causing an event by virtue of their infancy, or insanity, or otherwise.
In the case of R v Manley, the accused person induced a 9-year-old to steal his father’s money for him. The court held that, he was liable for the offense since the child is exempt from criminal liability by virtue of infancy, making him an involuntary agent.
From the facts, Kojo inducing Atta-Ayi, an involuntary agent by reason of his insanity, by giving him a cane and instructing him to cause harm to Wiafe and Emma, is criminally liable for the harm caused to the victims.
In conclusion, Kojo is liable for causing harm to Emma and Atta-Ayi and must be convicted on those charges.
Whether or not the doctor is liable for the harm to Emma’s eye.
The relevant principle of law here is the reasonable foreseeability rule found in Section 13(4) of the Criminal Offenses Act (Act 29). The law says that a person shall not be convicted of causing an event if the event would not have happened but for an intervention, the probability of which the accused did not take into consideration and did not have reason to take into consideration.
In R v Smith, a soldier was stabbed twice by another soldier, one of the stabs affected his lungs. The injured soldier was carried by another soldier to the hospital, but doctors who were overwhelmed with other cases misdiagnosed the injured soldier and gave the wrong treatment. He died.
The court held that, the negligence of the doctors did not break the chain of causation because at the time of his death, the injury was operating and a substantial cause.
Applying this decision to the facts of the instant case, criminal liability for Emma’s lost eye cannot be attributed to the negligence of the doctors because at the time of Kojo causing harm to Emma’s eye through inducement of an involuntary agent, he reasonably should have known that Emma would seek treatment if injured and that the doctors could be overwhelmed by cases, making misdiagnosis and mistreatment a probability. Also, the injury to Emma’s eye was operating and substantial when he lost sight in the eye.
To conclude, the negligence of the doctors did not break the chain of causation and cannot be held liable. Therefore, Kojo is liable for causing Emma to lose an eye.
Whether or not Wiafe’s refusal to adhere to the advice of the doctor constitutes a wanton and reckless disregard of his health.
The relevant principle of law is at Section 64(c) of Act 29 which avers that it does not matter if the person would not have died if he had sought medical or surgical treatment or the treatment was done negligently unless the person was guilty of a wanton and reckless disregard for his health.
Another applicable rule is the Eggshell rule which enjoins an offender to “take his victim as he finds him.” Same is codified in Section 64(b) of Act 29 with the relevant part stating that where death occurs as a result of harm, it is immaterial that the harm would not have caused the person’s death but for disease.
In the case of R v Holland, a brawl between two inmates of a prison led to the accused attacking the victim and severing his finger in the process. The deceased refused amputation of his finger as advised by doctors but opted for an alternative treatment which led to the fester of his wounds and eventually, death. The accused in his defense posited that, the deceased would not have died had he heeded to medical advice and subjected the finger to amputation.
The court held that the refusal of a victim to subscribe to the best mode of medical treatment is immaterial and not a defense to murder since accused inflicted the injury without any justifiable ground and the said wound led to the demise of the victim.
Applying same to the present case, Kojo cannot use Wiafe’s refusal to seek the best mode of medical care as a defense since the facts does not show Wiafe exacerbated his injury by some reckless endeavour. Again, Kojo cannot blame Wiafe’s diabetic precondition for causing his death as the same would be immaterial according to the eggshell rule supra.
Based on the facts and without prejudice to any other valid defense, Kojo is liable for the death of Wiafe despite Wiafe’s refusal to follow sound medical advice as that does not amount to a wanton and reckless disregard for his health.
Whether or not Kojo is liable for the death of Wiafe.
The relevant principle of law is contained in Section 64(e) of Act 29 which reads ‘death is not caused by harm unless the death takes place within a year and a day of the harm being caused.’
In the case of R v Dyson, the appellant beat a toddler and caused it injuries to the skull. Later, he again repeated same, and the baby eventually lost its life. The death was attributed to a fracture to the skull suffered on the first instance of beatings which took place sixteen months prior to the death.
The court held that the appellant was not liable for the death because the death took place more than a year and a day following the incident and hence death could not have been a result of that harm.
From the facts, Kojo is not liable for the death of Wiafe because the death of Wiafe occurred more than a year and a day after the harm caused by Kojo.
In conclusion, Kojo is not liable for Wiafe’s death.
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