The "law of torts" is a body of civil law or private law that covers the various legal (money damages) and equitableremedies which the law provides for civil wrongs arising from extra-contractual liability, i.e., other than those wrongs which arise from a breach of contractual obligations. The majority of legal claims (and the lawsuits that they are brought in) are torts.
In most countries, torts are typically divided into three broad categories: "Intentional torts", "Negligence" and "Nuisance".
In general terms, Intentional Torts are any intentional acts that are reasonably foreseeable to cause harm to an individual and do so.
Tort of Negligence is when harm occurs as a result of an individual, who is under a duty, fails to meet a standard of care imposed by that duty through and act or omission.
Tort of Nuisance is any act that interferes with someone else's use and enjoyment of land.
Purpose of torts
In common law, many torts originated in the criminal law, and there is still some overlap between crime and tort. For example, in English law an assault is both a crime and a tort (a form of trespass to the person).
The difference that grew up between the two is that in tort it is the victim (or 'claimant' in English law) who will normally initiate any court action and who aims to have a wrong compensated (for example by the payment of damages) or prevented (for example by injunctive relief); whereas criminal actions are normally for punitive purposes and are initiated by a public body or their representative. Another distinction is that incarceration is available as a penalty for crimes, but not for torts.
Having said that, many jurisdictions retain a punitive element as a part of the law of tort via exemplary damages, and some torts may have a public element, for example public nuisance, with actions being maintained by a public body. While criminal law is primarily punitive, again many jurisdictions have evolved forms of compensation that may be ordered by criminal courts.
United States tort law
Under United States tort law, torts are generally divided into two categories: intentional torts and non-intentional torts. Intentional torts include those actions that are intentional and voluntary and that are made with knowledge by the tortfeasor (i.e. the person who committed the tort) upon the plaintiff (the one who brings the complaint seeking relief). Intentional torts include: battery, assault (apprehension of harmful or offensive contact), false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), invasion of privacy, fraud, defamation of character (includes libel, which is written defamation of character and slander, which is non-written defamation of character), malicious prosecution, abuse of process, the real property tort of trespass to land, and the personal property torts of conversion and trespass to chattels.
Amongst unintentional torts one finds negligence as being the most common source of litigation in most American courts. It is a form of extracontractual liability that is based upon a duty of care of a reasonable person, who, being the proximate cause of damages, and but for the tortfeasor's act, is the cause of damages to the plaintiff. Other non-intentional torts include negligent infliction of emotional distress (or NIED, not recognized in all states), malpractice (professional negligence), and product liability (liability of manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers for unreasonably dangerous products).
Most tort claims or causes of action arise under state law and are heard in state courts. Some state tort claims are heard in federal courts under doctrines like diversity of citizenship of the parties or supplemental jurisdiction; such topics are the core of the standard American civil procedure course and are too complex to summarize here. See United States district court for more information.
There are relatively few tort claims available under federal law. The most common federal tort claim is the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 remedy for violation of one's civil rights under color of federal or state law, which can be used to sue for anything from a free speech claim to use of excessive force by the police. Tort claims arising out of injuries occurring on vessels on navigable waters of the United States fall under federal admiralty jurisdiction.
List of Tort Topics
- Abuse of process,
- Calculus of negligence,
- Contributory negligence,
- Conversion (tort),
- Duty of care,
- Frivolous lawsuit,
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress,
- Interference with contractual relations,
- Malicious prosecution,
- Medical malpractice
- Negligence per se,
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress,
- Passing off,
- Product liability,
- Proximate cause,
- Reasonable person standard
- Res ipsa loquitur,
- Slander and libel,
- Strict liability,
- Transferred intent,
- Trespass to chattels
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