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Torts is the field of law governing liability for injuries caused by conduct that violates standards of care determined by courts. Because the relevant care standards generally are not specified in contracts, or by criminal statutes, tort law is at the core of the common law process. Subjects typically covered under torts include: intentional torts, negligence, nuisance, strict liability, and products liability.

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The Case of the Smoking Tenant

Joseph William Singer and Esme Caramello

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The Case of the Anti-Bacterial Toys

Wendy Jacobs and David Abrams

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The Case of the Encumbered Employee

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The Case of the Medical Stent

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The Case of the Rent-Paying Tenant

David Grossman, Todd Rakoff, Joseph William Singer, with Chris Bates

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The Case of the Lead Toys

Todd Rakoff and Joseph William Singer

All Areas of Interest

Area of Interest Torts

Tort law defines what counts, in the eyes of the law, as wrongfully injuring another person – assault, fraud, libel, malpractice, negligence, and nuisance are all torts. Tort law also gives victims of such wrongs the opportunity to obtain a court-ordered remedy from the wrongdoer. Harvard Law School provides instruction not only in the basics of tort law – the definitions of the different torts, available defenses, the nature of tort remedies, and the like – but also advanced instruction in the history, policy dimensions, and theory of tort law, and its relation to insurance and government regulation.

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Tort Law: Cases and Commentaries - 2nd Edition

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Samuel Beswick, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Copyright Year: 2021

Publisher: CanLII: Canadian Legal Information Institute

Language: English

Formats Available

Conditions of use.

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Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Trespass to the Person
  • 3. Intentional Infliction of Mental Suffering
  • 4. Invasion of Privacy
  • 5. Defamation and Harassment
  • 6. Defences
  • 7. Intentional Interference with Real Property
  • 8. Intentional Interference with Chattels
  • 9. Remedies (I)
  • 10. Tort Theory
  • 11. Examination Questions (I)
  • 12. No-fault Compensation schemes
  • 13. Negligence: (i) Duty of Care
  • 14. Negligence: (ii) Breach of Duty of Care
  • 15. Negligence: (iii) Damage
  • 16. Negligence: (iv) Causation of Damage in Fact
  • 17. Negligence: (v) Remoteness of Damage in Law
  • 18. Defences (II)
  • 19. Difficult Categories of Negligence
  • 20.  Remedies (II)
  • 21. Nuisance
  • 22. Strict Liability Torts
  • 23. Vicarious Liability
  • 24. Tort Law and Legal Systems
  • 25. Examination Questions (II)
  • Index of Cases

Ancillary Material

About the book.

The law of obligations concerns the legal rights and duties owed between people. Three primary categories make up the common law of obligations: tort, contract, and unjust enrichment. This casebook provides an introduction to tort law: the law that recognises and responds to civil wrongdoing. The material is arranged in two parts. Part I comprises §§1-11 and addresses intentional and dignitary torts and the overarching theories and goals of tort law. Part II comprises §§12-25 and addresses no-fault compensation schemes, negligence, nuisance, strict liability, and tort law’s place within our broader legal systems.

This casebook was compiled and edited by Assistant Professor Samuel Beswick of the University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law. Maddison Zapach (J.D. expected 2023) provided research assistance on the first edition (published July 2021). We gratefully acknowledge the influence on our approach to this subject of Professor Joost Blom QC of the Allard School of Law, Professor John C.P. Goldberg of Harvard Law School, and Associate Professor Rosemary Tobin of the University of Auckland Faculty of Law. The support of Open UBC and the UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund is also gratefully acknowledged.

About the Contributors

Samuel Beswick,  University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law

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Legal Dictionary

The Law Dictionary for Everyone

Tort law refers to the set of laws that provides remedies to individuals who have suffered harm by the unreasonable acts of another. The law of tort is based on the idea that people are liable for the consequences of their actions, whether intentional or accidental, if they cause harm to another person or entity. Torts are the civil wrongs that form the basis of civil lawsuits. To explore this concept, consider the following tort law definition.

Definition of Tort Law

  • An area of law that deals with the wrongful actions of an individual or entity, which cause injury to another individual’s or entity’s person, property, or reputation, and which entitle the injured party to compensation.

Origin of Tort

1350-1400        Middle English (injury, wrong)

What is Tort Law

Tort law is the body of laws that enables people to seek compensation for wrongs committed against them. When someone’s actions cause some type of harm to another, whether it be physical harm to another person, or harm to someone’s property or reputation, the harmed or injured person or entity may seek damages through the court.

Damages are a monetary award ordered by the court to be paid to an injured party, by the party at fault. Damages may be awarded in compensation for loss of, or damage to, personal or real property , for an injury, or for a financial loss.

The types of damages that may be awarded by the court for civil wrongs, called “tortious conduct,” of an individual or entity include:

  • Reimbursement for property loss or property damage
  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Punitive damages

Tort Liability

The legal term tort refers to an action in which one person or entity causes injury, harm, or damage to another person or entity. A tort liability may occur as a result of intentional acts, a negligent act, a failure to act when the individual had a duty to act, or a violation of statutes or laws. The individual who commits the tortious act (the act leading to the tort liability claim) is called the “ tortfeasor ,” and is the defendant in this type of civil lawsuit . Such a defendant is generally held liable for damages or harm suffered by the plaintiff , as a result of the defendant’s acts.

In many tort cases, the damages or injury suffered by the plaintiff do not have to be physical injury. A defendant in a tort liability case, who is found to be liable for his or her tortious acts, may be ordered to pay damages for harm, such as violation of personal rights, pain and suffering, and emotional distress .

Types of Tort

There are a number of specific types of tort that form the basis of the majority of civil lawsuits in the United States. These include, among others:

  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Products Liability

Tort law divides most specific torts into three general categories:

  • Intentional Torts – the causing of harm by an intentional act, such as intentionally conning someone out of his money.
  • Negligent Torts – the causing of harm through some negligent act, such as causing a car accident by running a red light.
  • Strict Liability Torts – the result of harm incurred due to the actions of another, with no finding of fault by the defendant.

Additional and separate specific torts include:

  • Defamation Torts
  • Nuisance Torts
  • Privacy Torts
  • Economic Torts

Intentional Torts

Intentional torts are acts committed with the intent to harm another, or to deliberately interfere with an individual’s rights to bodily safety, emotional tranquility, privacy, control over property, freedom from deception, and freedom from confinement. Intentional torts commonly include such issues as assault and/or battery, false imprisonment , invasion of privacy , theft , property damage, fraud or other deception, and trespassing .

Intent is a key issue in proving an intentional tort , as the injured party, called the Plaintiff, must prove to the court that the other party, called the Respondent or Defendant, acted intentionally, and knew that his actions could cause harm. In some cases, the Plaintiff need only prove that the Defendant should have known that his actions could cause harm. Many intentional torts may also be charged as criminal offenses.

Tort examples:

Raymond stops by the local bar for a few drinks before he heads home after work. After drinking four cocktails, Raymond gets into his car, and runs a stop sign, crashing into another car, seriously injuring its occupants. Although Raymond might argue that he didn’t know he would hurt someone, it is expected that Raymond should have known that driving under the influence is likely to cause harm, or to kill another person.

Because Raymond intentionally drank alcohol, knowing he planned on driving home, and any reasonable person should know that drinking and driving could result in harm, he has committed an intentional tort. In addition, Raymond may be criminally charged with felony DUI.

Negligent Torts

The acts leading to claims of harm or injury in negligent torts are not intentional. There are three specific elements that must be satisfied in a claim of negligence:

  • The defendant must have a duty or owe a service to the plaintiff or victim
  • The defendant must have failed that duty, or violated a promise or obligation to the plaintiff
  • The plaintiff must have suffered an actual loss, injury, or damages that were directly caused by the plaintiff’s actions, or failure to act

Strict Liability Torts

Strict liability refers to the concept of imposing liability on a defendant, usually a manufacturer, without proving negligent fault, or intent to cause harm. The purpose of strict liability torts is to regulate activities that are acknowledged as being necessary and useful to society, but which pose an abnormally high risk of danger to the public.

Such activities may include transportation and storage of hazardous substances, blasting, and keeping certain wild animals in captivity. The possibility of civil lawsuits under strict liability torts keeps individuals or corporations undertaking such dangerous acts diligent in taking every possible precaution to keep the public safe.

Suing Under Strict Liability Tort

In a strict liability lawsuit, the law assumes that the supplier or manufacturer of the product was aware the defect existed before the product reached the consumer. Because of this, the plaintiff need only prove that harm or damages occurred, and that the defendant is responsible. To successfully bring a civil lawsuit under a strict liability tort, the following elements must be proven:

  • The named defendant is the manufacturer of the defective product
  • The product was defective when the plaintiff purchased it
  • The defect was present when the defendant sold the product
  • The defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries or damages
  • The injuries or damages caused by the product’s defect were reasonably foreseeable by the defendant

A plaintiff in a strict liability lawsuit may be awarded additional damages if he can prove that the defendant knew about the defect when the product was sold to consumers.

Amanda buys a new car from her local Zoom Auto dealership. Only three months later, Amanda noticed her brakes felt soft, so she took her car to dealer’s repair shop. They told her she just needed new brake pads, replaced them, and sent Amanda on her way. A month later, while Amanda was driving on a busy freeway, her brakes failed, and she crashed into another car. Amanda’s car was very badly damaged, and Amanda suffered a broken arm and a concussion.

Amanda discovers, while researching the brake problem she had been having with her car, that this particular model has had brake problems since it was first released for sale to the public. In digging deeper, Amanda discovers that Zoom Auto knew the car’s brake system was defective before they sold the cars, but determined it would be too expensive to bring them all back into the factory to change out the brake systems.

In suing Zoom Auto, Amanda must use this information to prove:

  • Zoom Auto manufactured the defective vehicle
  • The car’s brake system was defective when she bought the car
  • The car’s brake system was defective when Zoom Auto sold the car to Amanda
  • The brake defect caused Amanda’s injuries, as well as the severe damage to her car
  • It was reasonably foreseeable that selling a car with a defective brake system would cause injury to consumers
  • Zoom Auto knew about the defective brake system in this particular model car before they sold the vehicles, yet chose to sell them anyway, in blatant disregard of the safety of consumers

Federal Tort Claims Act

Historically, under the legal doctrine of “ sovereign immunity ,” people could not sue the government, unless the government gave them permission. This left people who, for instance, were run over by the mailman, slipped in a puddle caused by a leaky water fountain in the passport office, or were hit by a car driven by an FBI agent who was talking on his phone, out in the cold.

In 1946, Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act, giving people the right to sue the U.S. government in federal court for tortious acts committed by individuals acting in their rolls as federal government employees. This permission is limited, however, maintaining certain protections for the government.

Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), the U.S. government is liable for the tortious acts of individuals acting on the government’s behalf, in the same way a private party would be liable in similar circumstances. The amount of damages that may be awarded in such a lawsuit, however, is limited, with no allowance for punitive damages, or interest accumulated prior to the date of judgment.

The Federal Tort Claims Act also exempts the federal government from certain specified torts, though this protection is not extended to intentional torts committed by law enforcement officials. This means that individuals harmed by the unlawful actions of law enforcement officials may bring a civil lawsuit against the agency for damages.

Filing a Claim under the FTCA

The FTCA specifies that anyone wishing to file a tort claim against the United States must do so, in writing to the appropriate federal agency, within two years of the date the tort occurred. This means that the statute of limitations on filing an administrative claim under the FTCA is two years.

Any individual wishing to file an administrative claim for reimbursement for damages or injury must demonstrate that:

  • His property was damaged, or he was injured, by the actions of an employee of the federal government
  • The federal employee was acting in his official capacity at the time the damage or injury occurred
  • The federal employee acted wrongfully, or negligently
  • The federal employee’s wrongful or negligent act caused the plaintiff’s damages or injury

In most tort cases, an individual who desires to file a claim under the FTCA must first file an administrative claim with the federal agency that employs the employee that caused the damages. This requires filling out the required forms, and providing documents or other evidence supporting the claimant’s position. Forms and additional information can be obtained from the Department of Justice website.

Once an administrative claim has been filed, the agency has six months to respond to the claimant. If the claimant is not happy with the agency’s response or decision, he has six months from the date the response was mailed to him to file a civil lawsuit under the FTCA. In the event the federal agency does not respond to the claimant within the six month time frame, the claimant may go ahead and file a civil lawsuit, but his six-month statute of limitations does not begin to run until the agency actually provides a response or decision.

When filing a claim under the FTCA, the lawsuit must be filed in the U.S. District Court, which is the official name of the federal court, in the district where the tortious act occurred, or where the plaintiff lives.

Tort Reform

The term tort reform has been bandied about as a hot-button issue since the congressional elections in 2010. The average American citizen does not understand what tort reform actually means, and has no idea that it has no bearing on any laws, but is a general acknowledgement that the amount of damages awarded to victorious plaintiffs in tort lawsuits has grown too large.

In past decades, juries have sought to sufficiently reimburse plaintiffs for tortious wrongs committed against them, as well as to punish many defendants for actions the jury considers blatant and egregious . Many proposed tort reform acts have proven to be ill considered, however, as they seek to make it more difficult for people to file civil lawsuits, to make it more difficult for plaintiffs to obtain a jury trial on a civil matter, and to cap the amount of money plaintiffs can be awarded in various types of civil lawsuits.

While some people consider awards made to certain victorious plaintiffs to be exorbitant, the truth is, some of these plaintiffs experience seriously increased costs of living, medical expenses, loss of income, and loss of quality of life, due to the tortious behaviors of others. An award of damages in the millions of dollars range may sound like a large award, but when considering it spread over the plaintiff’s lifetime, it is often merely enough to get by.

Tort Law and Tort Reform Under Scrutiny

Tort reform has come under public scrutiny, as many people find publicized awards in civil lawsuits to be shockingly large. One of the most famous tort lawsuits in recent history in the case of a 79-year old woman who sued McDonald’s restaurants when she spilled her coffee, and was burned.

Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants

In 1992, 79-year old Stella Liebeck spilled a cup of McDonald’s coffee in her lap, sustaining third degree burns to both legs. The severity of the full-thickness burns required skin grafts. This involved stripping skin from other areas of Liebeck’s body to graft onto the burned areas which were no longer able to grow skin on their own, leaving her with even more wounds to heal. When McDonald’s denied Liebeck’s request to pay her medical bills, she filed a civil lawsuit.

During the course of the case, it was discovered McDonald’s had received hundreds of other complaints from customers complaining that their coffee had caused severe burns, and that the corporation ’s operations manual specified the coffee was to be kept at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit. It is known and accepted, by the scientific and medical communities, that liquid at that temperature, if spilled onto a person, causes third degree burns in three to seven seconds.

A jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages to pay for medical bills and other related expenses. Because it was clear the company knew its coffee was kept at a dangerously high temperature, and was therefore likely cause serious injury, the jury also awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages, which amounted to the company’s sales revenue from just two days of coffee sales.

While many proponents of tort reform view this case as a supreme example of a frivolous lawsuit with a shockingly high award, the truth is, McDonald’s knew its coffee could cause third degree burns, yet continued to specifically instruct its restaurant employees to keep and serve it at that temperature. Ms. Liebeck’s injuries were severe, her painful third degree burns requiring skin grafts. McDonald’s was given an opportunity to settle the matter out of court, but they refused to do so.

Ultimately, the judge reduced the amount awarded by the jury to $640,000, and the case was appealed by McDonald’s, which finally settled for an undisclosed amount before the appeal concluded. In this case, the current tort system worked property, as it prompted McDonald’s to settle the case, quite possibly because of a concern that the award would be boosted back up to the original amount awarded by the jury.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Civil Lawsuit – A lawsuit brought about in court when one person claims to have suffered a loss due to the actions of another person.
  • Criminal Offense – An act committed by an individual that is in violation of the law, or that poses a threat to the public.
  • Damages – A monetary award in compensation for a financial loss, loss of or damage to personal or real property, or an injury.
  • Defendant – A party against whom a lawsuit has been filed in civil court, or who has been accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
  • Entity – An individual, company, association, trust , or other organization that is legally recognized in the eyes of the law. A legal entity is able to enter into contracts, take on obligations, pay debts, be sued, and be held responsible for its actions.
  • Personal Property – Any item that is moveable and not fixed to real property.
  • Plaintiff – A person who brings a legal action against another person or entity, such as in a civil lawsuit, or criminal proceedings.
  • Punitive Damages – Money awarded to the injured party above and beyond their actual damages. Punitive damages, also referred to as “exemplary damages,” are ordered for the purpose of punishing the wrongdoer for outrageous misconduct in a civil matter.
  • Real Property – Land and property attached or fixed directly to the land, including buildings and structures.

Torts Basics

Torts overview, study tools, just for fun, getting help, torts: summaries and explanations.

  • Tort Overview ([LII] Wex)

Wex is a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia sponsored and hosted by the  Legal Information Institute  at the  Cornell Law School . Wex entries contain a definition, subject overview and useful links. All entries are collaboratively created and professionally reviewed

Get started with these materials aimed at law school students. These books and study materials explain and summarize the basics of Torts.

tort law case study

Torts in Depth

Go deeper with these leading works on torts or search the HOLLIS catalog for more sources.

Online Restatements

  • Restatement of the Law-Torts (Westlaw login) Includes the first, second and third Restatements
  • Restatements/Torts (Lexis login) Includes the first, second and third Restatements
  • HeinOnline American Law Institute Library/Restatements/Torts Includes the first, second and third Restatements

Audio CaseFiles

Download recordings of cases commonly read in first and second year courses.  Part of LexisNexis Courtroom Cast. 

  • LexisNexis Courtroom Cast Sign Up Harvard Law School access only. First time users: please register with your HLS email address
  • Audiocasefiles on Torts
  • Audiocasefiles by Torts Casebook

Test your knowledge!

CALI provides access to an extensive collection of interactive, computer-based lessons designed to augment traditional law school instruction. Use the lessons to supplement your studies and to review specific concepts.

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  • CALI Authorization Code & Registration Harvard Law School access only. First time users: please register using the HLSL CALI Authorization code.

Find Articles

Search these databases to find articles on tort law topics.

  • WestlawNext Journals & Law Reviews (Westlaw Login)
  • ABI Inform (Harvard Login) Over 1,000 business and academic journals more... less... Return to Harvard Libraries
  • Social Science Research Network (SSRN) New scholarship, including working papers and accepted articles. Harvard community members should use this link for access to current awareness tools. Also available for free at www.ssrn.com
  • Hein Online Law Journal Library (Harvard Login) More than 1,700 law and law-related periodicals. Coverage is from the first issue published for all periodicals and goes through the most-current issues available.
  • Business Source Complete (Harvard Login) more... less... The EBSCOhost Interface is optimized for searching articles. The Business Searching Interface facilitates searching other types of documents as well as articles. Business Source Complete is a database of citations to, summaries and full text of articles from academic journals, magazines, and trade publications. Citations, indexing and abstracts for the most important scholarly business journals back to 1886 are included as well as current company, industry and region reports.

Find Case Law

  • State and Federal Products Liability Cases (Westlaw login) Cases from federal and state courts that relate to causes of action predicated on product defects that existed at the time of sale, including manufacturing defects, design defects, and defects due to inadequate instructions or warnings. Coverage begins with 1945.
  • All Torts Cases (Lexis login)

More Torts Sources

  • Torts & Personal Injury Texts & Treatises (Westlaw login)
  • BNA Product Safety & Liability Reporter (BloombergLaw login)
  • Personal Injury Verdict Reviews (Westlaw login)
  • Torts Resources (Lexis login)

Tort Law News

Headlines from the tortsprof blog, just for fun....

The Tortland section of the Lawhaha website   collects interesting tort cases, warning labels, and photos of potential torts. Raise risk awareness. Play "Spot the Tort."

  • Lawhaha: Tortland

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  • Last Updated: Sep 12, 2023 10:46 AM
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Basic Tort Law: Cases, Statutes, and Problems [Connected eBook with Study Center] (Aspen Casebook) 5th Edition

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Basic Tort Law: Cases, Statutes, and Problems: Cases, Statutes, and Problems [Connected eBook with Study Center] (Aspen Casebook Series)

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Buy a new version of this textbook and receive access to the Connected eBook with Study Center on CasebookConnect, including: lifetime access to the online ebook with highlight, annotation, and search capabilities; practice questions from your favorite study aids; an outline tool and other helpful resources . Connected eBooks provide what you need most to be successful in your law school classes.

Offering comprehensive coverage that is suitable for one or two semester torts courses, Basic Tort Law: Cases, Statutes, and Problems, Fifth Edition ’s flexible organization accommodates courses that begin either with coverage of intentional torts in Chapter 2 or negligence, beginning with Chapter 3. Chapters 9-17 allow teachers to select additional topics that fit best with their curriculum and interests.

Key Features:

  • Cases edited to moderate length, so professors can help students analyze judicial reasoning and treatment of policy implications.
  • Practice-oriented problems in each chapter.
  • A new section on the intentional tort of false imprisonment, covering the concepts of confinement, consent, intentionality, and the shopkeeper’s privilege.
  • A new case addressing whether strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities applies to fracking, which, juxtaposed with another featured case, illustrates the differing ways courts have approached the Restatement factors.
  • A new case discussing joint and several liability, offering a straightforward introduction that enhances or may be substituted for a more detailed treatment of this complicated area.
  • ISBN-10 1454895225
  • ISBN-13 978-1454895220
  • Edition 5th
  • Publisher Wolters Kluwer
  • Publication date February 14, 2018
  • Language English
  • Dimensions 7.5 x 1.75 x 10 inches
  • Print length 1008 pages
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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Wolters Kluwer; 5th edition (February 14, 2018)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 1008 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1454895225
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1454895220
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 3.9 pounds
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Top 5 Important Cases to Understand the Basics of Torts

  • Law of Torts Subject-wise Law Notes
  • August 17, 2020

Law of Torts

Introduction

The word ‘Tort’ is of French origin and is derived from the Latin word ‘tortum’ which means to twist and implies a twisted conduct . The word tort is also similar to a Sanskrit word ‘jimha’ which means ‘crooked ’. ‘Jimha’ was used in the ancient Hindu Law Text which meant a ‘tortious or fraudulent conduct.’ Tort is a civil wrongful act, committed against a person or a property, either intentional or negligent.

According to Prof. Winfield , “Tortious liability arises from the breach of a duty primarily fixed by law which results in an infringement of private legal right of another end, for which, civil action for unliquidated damages, injunction, specific restitution of property or even self-help, as the case may be, can be maintained.”

If a tort occurs, the law permits the injured party to seek to recover damages equal to the value of the injury. Damages are awarded in an effort to make the injured party whole again. Money is the common form of damages which is used to compensate the injury caused. Though money cannot always make the injured party whole again, nevertheless it can assist in rectifying many things. The concept of reasonable care underlies tort law. The court tries to compensate a victim for harm suffered from another person who did not take reasonable care.

Let us take an example. A drives his car carelessly because of which it mounts the pavement and hits B, a pedestrian, causing B personal injuries. The act is A driving the vehicle. The act has caused damage to B the damage was caused due to carelessness of A. Therefore A will be liable for tort and B will be able to recover damages.

Essential of Torts

1. There must be a wrongful act or omission on the part of person

2. That wrongful act or omission must result in legal damage to another

3. The wrongful act or omission must be of such a nature as to give rise to a legal remedy.

Now, to further delve into some of the ingredients of Torts let us look into some of the important judgments under Tort Law.

Municipal Corporation Delhi vs. Subhagwanti, 1966

The case of Municipal Corporation Delhi vs. Subhagwanti, 1966 (AIR 1966 SC 1750)[1] deals with one of the most important aspects of Torts that is ‘negligence’ . Negligence signifies failure to exercise a particular standard of care which the doer as a reasonable man should have exercised in particular situation or circumstance.

In this case, a clock tower collapsed in Chandni Chowk, Delhi causing death of many people. The structure was 80 years old whereas its normal life was to be 40-45 years. The municipal corporation of Delhi was responsible for the structure and therefore was held liable. The doctrine res ipsa loquitur (things speak for itself) was applied to this case as according to the facts of the case the Municipal Corporation was solely responsible for the ownership and control of the clock tower and owned the duty of care to the deceased. Thus the corporation was held liable for tort due to negligence.

Ashby vs. White, 1703

The case Ashby vs. White, 1703 2 Lord Raym 933 [2] , brings light on the legal maxim ‘ injuria sine damno .’ There are also cases where a conduct is actionable even though no damage has been caused. In this leading case, the defendant, a returning officer, wrongfully refused to register a duly tendered vote of the plaintiff who was a qualified voter. The candidate for whom the vote was tendered was elected and hence no loss was suffered by the rejection of the plaintiff’s vote.

The plaintiff bought an action for damages against the defendant. The court awarded him 5 Euros on the ground that the violation of the plaintiff’s legal right for which he must have a remedy and was actionable without proof of pecuniary damage. The Chief Justice contended that the plaintiff ought to be allowed to recover, because the right to vote is a common law right and the obstruction to cause that right must give rise to a cause of action.

The idea of injuria sine damno is also commonly used in the tort of trespass. For e.g. if A walks across B’s land without B’s permission then A will commit the tort of trespass to land, even though he causes no damage to the land.

Bhim Singh vs. State of Jammu & Kashmir, 1985

The case of Bhim Singh vs. State of Jammu and Kashmir, 1985 (AIR 1986 SC 494) [3] deals with another important aspect under Tort law which is ‘false imprisonment’ (intentional confinement, of another person within fixed boundaries). When it is shown that a person is arrested with mischievous and malicious intent the court has the authority to monetarily compensate the victim.

According to the facts of the case, Mr. Bhim Singh an MLA of Jammu and Kashmir was arrested and detained by the police and was deliberately prevented from attending the sessions of the legislative assembly. He was not produced before the magistrate even after 4 days of his detention. When his whereabouts were not known his wife filed an application in the Supreme Court under Habeas Corpus.

On inquiry the court came to a conclusion that the police had arrested him illegally and with a false and malicious intent thereby violating his constitutional rights. The court held that, police who are the custodians of law and order should have the greatest respect for personal liberty and should not engage in any act of lawlessness. Hence, Mr. Bhim Singh must be adequately compensated for violating his basic legal rights as a member of a legislative assembly.

Gloucester Grammar School Case

A common question which arises in Tort law is- how is justice served when damaged is caused to a person without any legal injury? The answer to this question lies in the Gloucester Grammar School Case [4] . In this case, the defendant was a teacher in the plaintiff’s school. But due to some disputes, he had set up a rival school to that of the plaintiff’s with the result that the plaintiffs were required to reduce the tuition fees of their school as the students from the plaintiff’s school shifted to the defendant’s school as he was popular among students for his teaching.

The plaintiff sued the defendant for the monetary loss caused. It was held that plaintiffs had no cause of action against the defendant on the ground that bonafide competitions cause no action, whatever damages it may cause. Compensation cannot be granted as there was no infringement of any legal right.

So a situation where damage is caused without any legal injury is known as ‘ damnum sine injuria ’ which means ‘injury caused without any actual loss.’ So a person who suffers damage without any legal right being violated is not titled to compensation.

Mayor of Bradford vs. Pickle, 1985

In the case of Mayor of Bradford vs. Pickle , 1985 [5] the petitioner had water springs on his land through which water was supplied to the entire city. Adjacent to it was the defendant’s land. Under the defendant’s land were natural reservoirs which supplied water to the plaintiff’s springs. However, the defendant sank a shaft into his land which reduced the amount of water flowing into the plaintiff’s springs. The plaintiff contended that the defendant’s action was with a malicious intent and hence they were titled to injunctions.

The issue raised in this case was, can a use of property which is legal if due to a proper motive become illegal because it is promoted by a motive which is malicious? The court held that the defendant being the owner of his land can divert or restrict the water flow according to his own wish and it is legal to do so. So the motive behind this act becomes irrelevant as far as the action is legal. Therefore, it was confirmed that the intention behind the act does not matter as far as the act is within the ambit of legality.

Thus, we have seen the above five important judgments which highlight the basics of Torts. Negligence, injuria sine damno, false imprisonment, damnum sine injuria are some of the common but very important ingredients under Tort law among others. As Torts deal with the infringement of the most basic legal rights of an individual, Tort law forms the very base of the legal field whose principles are used to form laws for other severe crimes.

For more notes on Law of torts, Click Here.

For law notes, Click Here.

Author Details: Sayali Jayesh Mandlik ((ILS Law College, Pune)

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