Prodiability -- a Game of Product Liability


Lisa Garrity

Instructional Objective

After playing Prodiability, the learner will be able to:


The game is designed for first year law students.

Indications for Use:

As part of the initial instruction

Once students know the theory surrounding Product Liability Law (from text reading or classroom lecture), this game can be used in a classroom setting to teach applicability and reinforce the theory. The game can accommodate up to seven single players or teams. The class instructor will act as a mentor and guide as the students play the game. The instructor has the final decision as to the accuracy of each of the students' statements as they progress along each path.

To reinforce knowledge and information learned (as a study tool before exams)

In this form the students play the game without the assistance of the instructor. Therefore they will need to refer to class texts and appropriate references to validate the information used to progress along each path. Some of the information needed is provided with the game documentation in the form of a reference sheet. But this is not comprehensive and will not determine if the information given is correct or not.

Object of Game

The object of Prodiability is for each player to:

Game Materials

Time Required

The game can be played 2-7 individual players or players can form teams (as in a classroom setting).
Game time varies from 1-3 hours depending on the level of debate the students engage in during the game.

The Set-up

Open up the board onto a large table or the center of the floor. Players need to be able to move around each side to move their playing piece along the desired path.
Place the Chance, Jury and Defense cards on the appropriate spaces.
Place the Elements Vault at the head of each category of cause of action (Negligence, Specific Product Liability, and Warranty).
Put one Fact Card into each file folder.
Place the file folders on the desk at the starting point.
Place all player pieces on the desk.
Issue each player (or team) $200 per diem.

Getting Started and the Rules


Getting Started


  1. When a player lands on a square indicating an element of the chosen cause of action, that player must articulate that element according to the description of the square.


  2. The player must articulate that element to the satisfaction of the other players (and/or instructor) and successfully rebut any counter arguments in order to collect the element card and move forward on their next turn.


  3. If that player fails to either successfully articulate the element or rebut a counter argument, then that player must successfully articulate the element on his/her next turn prior to proceeding down the cause of action path.


  4. When a player encounters a defense or a chance square, the player must pick up a card from the defense card pile. After reading the card, the player must state the defense and whether the defense applies to his/her cause of action.


  5. If the defense is a complete bar to recovery (failure), the player must start the game over.


  6. However, if the defense applies but is not a complete bar to recovery, the player must advocate on his client's behalf against the invocation of the defense. The other players are a "mini-jury" and must decide whether the player has overcome the defense. If so, the player proceeds down his/her cause of action path. If the player doesn't sufficiently rebut the defense, the player loses his/her turn and must wait to argue his/her case.


  7. If the player encounters a "Chance" square they must draw a chance card and respond to the information on the card.


Design Process

Janeen Kerper is a law school professor at California Western School of Law. She also heads The Center for Creative Problem Solving. She is one of my personal training clients as well. One day we were talking about the classes I am taking through the Educational Technology Program at SDSU. As we were talking about the Games and Simulations class she told me about a board game that three of her students built as a class project. She asked if I could evaluate and refine the game so that it could be used as an instructional product in other law classes.
I contacted the game developers - Pantena Ebrahimi, Shon Northam, and Rozana Sinishtaj - and told them what Professor Kerper and I discussed. They were very interested in working with me on this project and refining the game.
I met with the students three times while working on this project. My first goal was to evaluate the structure of the game and the subject matter to determine instructional goals of the game. I also wanted to know if the content led itself to the type of game they developed. I was happy to find that it did. By interviewing the students and Professor Kerper I was able to determine the instructional goals and objectives being taught and reinforced using the game.
One of the biggest challenges of this project is that I am not a subject matter expert in Products Liability Law. In fact, before starting this project, I didn't know anything about it. This made refining the game more of a challenge because I had to ask the SME's everytime I wanted to change something on their original game board. However, they were very accomodating and liked the changes and additions I made to the game.
The subject matter being taught is organized procedurally. This lends itself to a race type format. There is some decision making required and this is covered as the student chooses which path to take and which elements to satisfy. Their communication and persuasion skills are challenged when they have to articulate the elements and defend their cause of action to their fellow classmates and game participants.

The structure of this game offers two distinct instructional advantages.
1. Used under the guideance of an instructor --
If the game is played in a classroom setting with the instructor present, the instructor acts as the judge. This gives the students a more "real life" scenario where they have to articulate the elements of each legal theory to the judge rather than their peers. The instructor can also add additional circumstances that would further challenge the student's thought process surrounding the subject.

2. Used as a study tool before exams --
Students can play the game without an instructor present after they have covered this information in class. They will have to refer to references and texts to insure the accuracy of the information given by fellow players. This stimulates inductive learning and encourages the students to go beyond what was taught in class. The developers told me that everytime they played the game they learned something new from each other. They also found that they had more questions that they needed the professor to answer for them.

The overall structure of the game provides a great opportunity for enhanced instruction. Keller's ARCS model applies here because the game grabs the playerís attention, the metaphor provides relevance to the studentís future profession, the game builds confidence by providing constant feedback as the player moves along a path, and satisfaction is gained when the player is rewarded for a correct response. Here are more specifics:

As I began to work with the game board I noticed a lot of repetition. I attempted to simplify the board and make it more cyclical. However, the procedures being taught are not as cyclical as the board suggests.
In my attempt to simplify, I also wanted to "clean up" the board because it looked too cluttered to me. The developers used a standard poster board; this was not big enough for the 9 pathways with approximately 25 element squares in each path. So I "opened it up" and used 4 poster boards. This allowed me to make the element squares 1"x1" and made the graphics easier to see.
I kept the basic structure of the board. Each of the element squares uses a graphic to symbolize the case that defines the element. These graphics help the students to remember the associated cases and information surrounding each element. Here is an example of the element squares
I reorganized the paths so that each legal theory was grouped together. Grouping the legal theories together made the board look a little more organized. I also color coded the element squares to element cards that act as a prize or reward for satisfying that element.
I added the "chance" squares. This adds an element of real life to the process. The chance cards are descriptions of things that happen in everyday life that affect the way we conduct business. Here are some examples of the chance cards:

  1. You just got a new puppy. He got into your briefcase last night and chewed up your case information.
    Consequence: Must rework the last element gained. Return the element to the element vault.
  2. Your client is very impressed with your performance on this case. He writes a letter of appreciation to the Senior Partner of your firm.
    Consequence: You receive a $50 bonus.
  3. This client likes to meet over lunch rather than at your office. And they donít like to eat at fast food stands.
    Consequence: Donate $50 to the Kitty to cover lunch.

Further Refinement Needed

Although this board game is more fully developed than the original version, it still needs further refinement to cover all the issues of Product Liability Law. For instance, some of the information on the reference sheets provided to me by the students does not match the board layout or element squares. The board should be checked for accuracy by an instructor or other SME (beyond the level of a first year law student). I was not able to do this due to time constraints.
Also, there needs to be more chance cards developed and more chance spaces added to the board (not enough room on this version). The Elements Vault should also be improved and the elements cards further refined.


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