gavelpic tortlawimg
 
Home American Sources Contract C-dscrpt Tort Law Civil Library

 
Glossary
tort
A wrong involving a breach of duty, and rsulting in an injury to the person or property of another. A tort is distinguished from a breach of a contract in that a tort is a violation of a duty established by law, whereas a breach of contract results from a failure to meet an obligation created by the agreement of the parties....[T]he tort is a private wrong that must be pursued by the injured party in a civil action.

tortfeasor
A person who commits a tort.

intentional tort
An injury inflicted by positive, willful, and aggressive conduct, or by design, as opposed to an injury caused by negligence or resulting from an accident.

negligence
The failure to do something that a reasonable person would do in the same circumstances, or the doing of something a reasonable person would not do. Negligence is a wrong generally characterized by carelessness, inattentiveness, and neglectfulness rather than by a posituve intent to cause injury.

strict liability
Liability for an injury whether or not there is fault or negligence; absolute liability.

A tort is a wrongful injury to a person or his or her property. The person inflicting the the harm is called the tortfeasor Tort law considers the rights and remedies available to persons injured through other people's carelessness or intentional misconduct. Tort law also holds person in certain circumstances responsible for other people' injuries regardless of blame. Torts are commonly subdivided into three broad categories:

  • intentional tort
  • negligence
  • strict, or absolute, liablility
Intentional torts are actions designed to injure another person or that person's property. The tortfeasor intends a particular harm to result from the misconduct. There are many specific types of intentional torts, including:
  • battery,
  • assault,
  • false imprisonment,
  • infliction of emotional distress,
  • fraud,
  • misrepresentation,
  • malicious prosecution,
  • abuse of process,
  • defamation,
  • trespass,
  • conversion,
  • slander of title
  • disparagement of goods,
  • defamation by computer.
Negligence is a failure to exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring others. It is disstinguishable from intentional torts in that negligence DOES NOT require the intent to commit a wrongful action; instead, the wrongful actionitself is sufficient to consitute negligence. What makes misconduct negligence is that:
  1. the behavior was not reasonably careful,
  2. and

  3. someone was injured as a result of this unreasonable carelessness.
Strict Liablity, (or Absolute Liability), is the tortfeasor's responsibility for injuring another regardless of intent, negligence, or fault. The most important type of strict liability is product liability, a legal theory under which the manufacturer or other seller of unreasonably dangerous or defective product is held liable for injuries the product causes. Individuals in possession of wild and dangerous animals are also subject to absolute liability for injuries caused by those animals.

Other activities found to be so dangerous that the impose absolute liability are the use of chemical sprays, the storage of a large amount of natural gas in a populated area, the storage of explosives, and the conducting of blasting operations which result in damage to adjoining property.

Absolute liability is different from intentional tort in that intent to commit an absolute liability tort is irrelevant. Likewise, strict liability is distiguishable from negligence, because the torfeasor is responsible under absolute liability regardless how careful he or she might have been.

Public Policy Objectives in Tort Law
Like very aspect of our legal system, they are several purposes underlying tort pinciples. These include:

  1. Protecting persons and property from unjust injury by providing legally enforceable rights
  2. Compensating victims by holding accountable the persons responsble for causing such harm
  3. Encouraging minimum standards of social conduct among society's members
  4. Deterring violation of those standards of social conduct
  5. Allocating losses among different participants in the social arena

Protecting Persons and Property: Accountability
Modern tort law strives to prevent injustified harm to innocent victims. Tort law enables private citizens to use the legal system to resolve disputes in which one party claims that the other has acted improperly, resulting in harm. The system compels the tortfeasor to compensate the injured party for his or her losses. This accountability is crucial to our legal sense of fair play and equity. People should be held responsible for their actions, especially when they wreak havoc on others. Redress should be available for innocent victims of carelessness, recklessness, or intentional injury.

Minimum Standards of Social Conduct: Deterrence
To function meaningfully in American society citizens must understand society's norms and values. One extremely important norm encourages the public to behave so as to avoid hurting others or their belongings. Tort law is largely composed of minimum standards of conduct; persons functioning below such tresholds are defined as tortfeasors, whereas individuals acting at/or above such criteria are acceptable to the community. However, the intention is not to ensure conformity; rather, the idea is to inspire people to respect the dignity and integrity each individual possesses.

Tort law is not designed to infringe heedlessly upon another's activities. Tort law discourages abuses by establishing a clear system of legal rights and remedies enforceable in court proceedings. We all know that we can go to court when someone strikes us, invades our privacy, creates a nuisance, or acts negligently toward us. Likewise,, we know that we might be hauled into court if we do those things to others. By establishing minimum standards of conduct, tort law sets the rules for living - "the rules of thumb" - by which we try to get along with other people.

Allocating Losses
It is easy to grasp the idea that an individual tortfeasor should compensate the victim for the tortfeasor's wrongdoing. However, in modern society there are often many different participants in virtually any activity, and it is less clear who should be labeled as tortfeasor or victim. For example, at the time of the American Revolution, most Americans were fairly selfsufficient and dealt directly with individuals for goods or services. If a colonist bought a broken plow or a poorly shod horse from the local blacksmith, he or she knew whom to take to task.

However, as the United States became more industralized, commercial transactions ceased to be one-on-one transactions. Today, people buy canned produce from a local grocery that bought it from a manufacturer that bought it from a grower. If the produce is spoiled, perhaps the purchaser's spouse or child, rather than the purchaser, will suffer the injury. The culpability lines become less clear as the producer of the defective item becomes more removed from the ultimate user. Tort law has evolved the legal theory of products liability to determine who is in the best position to bear the costs of defective products - the innocent user or the sellers and manufacturers.

It is an economic decision that courts and legislatures have made in stating that industry can best afford the costs of injuries caused by dangerously made goods. In other words, the burden of shouldering the economic loss is placed upon commercial businesses instead of the individual who suffers the harm..This illustrates how tort law can be used to assign the expenses associated with misfortune even when fault is hazy. More commonly, though, a single tortfeasor can be identified and saddled with the financial obligation.

 
Home: American Law 101
 
American: American Legal System
 
Sources: Sources of American Law
 
Contract: Contract Law & Commercial Code
 
Tort: Tort Law
 
Civil: Civil vs.Criminal Law
 
Library

 
Home American Sources Contract C-dscrpt Tort Law Civil Library