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In Brazil, the export industry always finds ways to cut costs. The international community expressed its dismay at the manufacturers’ latest cost-cutting decision to replace flouride with diethylene glycol in toothpaste. Flouride is designed to strengthen teeth enamel. Diethylene glycol is a poisonous substance used to make chemicals that are widely used by the automobile industry.

The end product exported from Brazil was poisonous toothpaste that was not labeled to indicate that it contained diethylene glycol. When the poisonous chemical was found in the toothpaste, Costa Rican government officials issued a warning telling consumers to discard the toothpaste. In 2019, a study found that toothpaste containing diethylene glycol was harmless if the chemical concentration was below 15.6 percent. The contaminated toothpaste found in Costa Rica contained levels as high as 5 percent. Costa Rican government officials warned that it was unsafe in any concentration. It is especially harmful for children, as well as those suffering from weakened kidneys.

In July 2020, due to growing concern about the safety of the imported toothpaste, the Costa Rican government banned all manufacturers from using diethylene glycol in toothpaste. Investigators believed that the toothpaste originated from two small manufacturers in the Brazil but the manufacturers denied any wrongdoing.

The contaminated toothpaste was found in five shipping containers but there have not been any confirmed illnesses or deaths from using the contaminated toothpaste.

If you were manufacturing toothpaste and decided to substitute diethylene glycol for glycerin, would you consider it your ethical obligation to tell the consumer?


how to Brief a Case using the “IRAC” Method – Professor Ng

IRAC method: Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion

(Before the issue, write a brief summary of the facts of the case. Also, explain where the case is in the court system (the procedural history). Example: “The trial court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Defendant then appealed to the Florida Court of Appeal.”

Issue: What is the legal question that, when answered, determines the result of the particular case? The issue should be stated in the form of a question in a specific, rather than general form: “Is the legal defense of justifiable homicide available to a defendant sued for wrongful death if the decedent was not armed with a weapon likely to cause great bodily injury or death?” would be an acceptable issue. “Will the plaintiff win?” would not be acceptable. Note that the issue may be case specific, mentioning the parties’ names and specific facts of the case. Example: “Is the legal defense of justifiable homicide available to Zimmerman in a wrongful death action if Martin was not armed with a weapon likely to cause great bodily injury or death? Most cases present one issue. If you identify multiple issues, list each one and give the rules for all issues raised.

Rule: The rule describes how the law applies to the issue. The rule, which could be a statute or a common law rule, should be stated as a general principal and not a conclusion to the particular case being briefed. Do not use parties’ names or specific facts from the case. Example: “Justifiable homicide is a defense to a wrongful death civil action when the defendant reasonably believes the decedent’s actions are likely to cause imminent great bodily injury or death” would be an acceptable rule. Simply stating “Justifiable homicide” would not be an acceptable rule. Hint: Frequently, the rule will be the definition of the principle of law applicable in the case.

Application: How does the court apply the rule of law to the facts of the case? The application represents your understanding of the analysis used by the court to reach its conclusion. It should explain the court’s consideration of the issue, presenting both sides of the debate when possible. The application is the most important, and the longest, part of the brief. If the rule discusses justifiable homicide, take the facts of the case and explain whether or not they fit into the definition of justifiable homicide. Example: “In this case, the plaintiff (decedent’s parents) contended the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment because the legal defense of justifiable homicide cannot be used when the decedent was unarmed at the time of a killing. Therefore, because there was no dispute that the decedent was unarmed at the time of the killing, plaintiff argued that the trial court ruling should be affirmed. On the other hand, the defendant argued that the trial court decision should be reversed because Florida law does not specifically bar a defendant from asserting the defense of justifiable homicide if the decedent was unarmed. Rather, the defendant asserted, and the court of appeal agreed, that Florida law provides that justifiable homicide can be used in every instance “when the defendant reasonably believes” he is about to suffer great bodily injury or death. Here, defendant raised a genuine issue of material fact by testifying at deposition that he reasonably believed he was about to suffer great bodily injury or death at the hands of the decedent when decedent allegedly pinned the defendant to the ground, struck defendant several times in the fact with his fists and repeatedly forced defendant’s head into the sidewalk.

Conclusion: State the result of the case. Example: The legal defense of justifiable homicide is available to a defendant in a wrongful death action regardless of whether the decedent was armed with a weapon. Trial courts denial of motion for summary of judgment reversed and case remanded to trial court. (This can be found at the end of the case, printed in italics.)

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