Listening Topic: Law – Radio call-in program about legal questions

A. Listen to the radio show. Answer the questions.

1   What advice does the lawyer give in the first situation?

      a   The woman must return the painting to the owners.

      b   The woman should return the painting to the owners.

2   What does the lawyer say about the second situation?

      a   The tenant is not liable (legally responsible for damage) in this situation.

      b   The tenant could be liable in this situation.

B. Listen to the radio program again. As you listen, choose the correct answer to complete each statement. Listen again if necessary.

 Patty found a painting ____.

      a   in her neighbor’s yard

      b   in front of her home

      c   in front of her neighbor’s home

 After she took it home, she discovered that the painting was ____.

      a   signed

      b   stolen

      c   valuable

 She can legally keep the painting because ____.

      a   her neighbors threw it away

      b   she found it

      c   she found that it was valuable

 The lawyer thinks that she should return the painting because ____.

      a   her neighbors want it back

      b   her neighbors didn’t know it was valuable

      c   her neighbors could hold her responsible

 The danger in Andrew’s house is ____.

      a   a hole in the floor

      b   a hole in the stairs

      c   on the second floor

 Andrew is worried because ____.

      a   he might get hurt

      b   he can’t afford to repair it

      c   someone might get hurt and hold him responsible

 Andrew has ____ about the situation.

      a   told the landlord

      b   not told the landlord

      c   written to the landlord

 In this situation, ____ could be liable.

      a   Andrew

      b   the landlord

      c   both Andrew and the landlord



1 b   2 b


1 c   2 c   3 a   4 b   5 b   6 c   7 a   8 c


A = Host, B = Patty, C = Sarah Cole, D = Andrew

A:   Hello, and welcome to It’s the Law – the show where listeners call in with legal questions. The number to call is (1-800) 563-2677. Now, let’s hear from our first caller, Patty of Santa Barbara, California. Patty? You’re on the line.

B:   Yes, I have a problem. I was walking past my neighbor’s house a few months ago and there was a bunch of stuff put out on the sidewalk in front of the house, on the curb, with the trash. You know, free stuff. I saw a piece of art that I liked, and it was in good condition, so I picked it up and took it home. It was an oil painting – a seascape – and it was signed.

A:   OK. Go on.

B:   Well, a few weeks later I showed it to a friend who knows something about art, and he saw the signature, and he said, “Wait a minute! This was painted by Walter Mitchell!” I did some research, and apparently the artist is famous, and the painting could be worth about as much as ten thousand dollars.

A:   Wow!

B:   So my question is, did I steal this painting? I mean, they threw it out, but now I know it’s worth something, and I’m worried about it.

A:   And so you want to know if you’re breaking the law by keeping it?

B:   Yes.

A:   OK. Let’s ask our legal expert here, Sarah Cole. Sarah, what do you think?

C:   Well, I think there’s an ethical question here. But there’s no legal issue. Legally, you can keep the painting as long as it was definitely thrown away by the owners. You’re saying it was in the trash?

B:   Not in the trash, no, but it was next to the trash, with a bunch of other stuff: old furniture and junk. If no one had taken it, the trash collectors would have thrown it in the garbage truck.

C:   Looks like you were very lucky.

A:   But wait a minute. You said there was an ethical question?

C:   Well I do think there’s an ethical aspect here. And that is, you know who the original owners are. So you could give the painting back to them.

A:   But they threw it away. They didn’t want it.

C:   Yes! But do you think they knew what is was worth? And do you think they would have thrown it out if they knew what is was worth?

B:   I see your point.

C:   So, legally, the painting is now Patty’s. But ethically, I think the right thing to do would be to return the picture. But it’s up to Patty.

A:   So, it’s up to you, Patty. Not an easy decision to make.

B:   No, it’s not easy at all. But thank you for the help.

A:   All right. Andrew, from Portland, Maine, is on the line. Andrew?

D:   Yes. I have a problem. I’m renting a house with two floors, and there’s a hole in the staircase.

A:   A hole in the staircase? Indoors or outdoors?

D:   It’s indoors, going up to the second floor.

C:   How big is it?

D:   Not very big, but you could put your foot through it if you didn’t know it was there. I mean, we walk around it, but I’m worried that if we have guests, and someone doesn’t know about it…

A:   So if someone gets hurt, would Andrew be held liable. I mean, would he be responsible for the injury?

C:   Well, there are definitely liability issues here. Have you told the landlord about the hole?

D:   Yes, I’ve talked to him about it.

C:   How long ago did you tell him? And did you put it in writing?

D:   I’d say it was about a month ago, but not in writing, no. I just told him about it.

C:   OK. I’d say, well, here’s one thing you can do. You need to put a warning sign on the stairs so that people know to go around the hole. You are legally obligated to warn visitors of dangers such as holes in stairs, or broken windows, or whatever.

D:   OK.

C:   And then you need to notify your landlord again, this time in writing. Tell him what you’ve told me, and mention that you are worried about liability. You don’t want to be held responsible if someone gets injured.

A:   Whose liability is it?

C:   If the landlord was clearly told about the hole and hasn’t done anything about it, then he is liable. But you could be held liable if the landlord claims you never told him about it. Or if someone said they weren’t warned.

D:   Thank you very much.

C:   You’re welcome.

A:   That’s all we have time for today. Next week, we look at consumer law. What happens when you buy …

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