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Tort Law Guide

Tort Law is arguably one of the most fundamental modules of the qualifying law degree. But what is a tort, and what are some of the main themes covered in this vast area of the law? Find out by reading our new guide.

What is Tort Law?

A tort occurs when someone commits a wrong against another person. Tort law allows individuals who have had a wrong committed against them to claim damages against the person who has committed the wrong. It encompasses a vast amount of different types of legal issues.

Tort a civil law that aims to return individuals back in the position they were in before the wrong was committed against them to ensure they do not suffer any unnecessary loss.

During the study or practice of this topic, you could find yourself scrutinising the following:

Duty of Care

Duty of Care is one of the most important areas of tort law within the compulsory law degree module. This is the mainstay of any negligence claim. A tort is committed if someone who has a legal duty towards someone else breaches that duty and, due to this, causes some form of harm/injury. There is a three-stage test known as the Caparo test to establish duty of care:

  1. That the harm was reasonably foreseeable
  2. That there was a relationship of proximity between the parties (normal examples include doctor/patient, solicitor/client, employer/employee)
  3. That it is fair, just and reasonable to impose a duty of care.

Negligence

Negligence occurs when someone who has duty of care fails to provide this duty of care to someone. In order to establish a case of negligence, there are certain things you have to prove:

Personal Injury

This type of law involves civil cases being brought in order to obtain compensation for injuries sustained. Personal injuries can involve injuries suffered in accidents whether at home, in public or in the workplace, and injuries inflicted through negligence.

Strict Liability

Strict liability in tort is the imposition of liability on a party without the requirement to find intent or negligence. In other words, the individual claiming damages only needs to prove that the tort occurred, and the defendant was responsible.

Strict liability torts exists for behaviour which is inherently dangerous. Examples of this include the ownership of wild animals or the management of nuclear power plants.

Nuisance

There are two areas of nuisance: private and public. Private nuisance consists of situations where actions by the defendant causes unreasonable interference with a private individual’s land or enjoyment of their land.

Public nuisance is along the same lines except the action of the defendant interferes with a group rather than just an individual.

Damages

Damages in tort are generally awarded to restore the plaintiff to the position they were in had the tort not occurred and compensate them for the loss suffered. There are a number of different ways to classify damages in tort law. For example:

General damages: awarded for pain, suffering and emotional distress

Aggravated damages: awarded for mental distress if the court decides that the tort was malicious

Exemplary/punitive damages: awarded if the damage caused is deemed so serious by the court that an example needs to be made of the defendant

Other areas of tort law that may be covered in a law module or you may find during work in the field include defamation, trespass including trespass to the person and privacy law.

It is important to note that in many cases, criminal law and tort law can overlap as there may be an ascertainable criminal wrong alongside a civil wrong.

One example of this is in the case of sexual violence which can encompass a trespass against the person as well as a crime.

What is a Civil Wrong?

A civil wrong is a cause of action under the law. Torts, breaches of contracts and breach of trust all constitute civil wrongs.

These wrongs cause a claimant to suffer loss or harm of some description.

It is the existence of this harm or loss, as well as other important aspects of tort such as a breach of a duty of care and causation, which creates liability against the person who committed the wrong.

What is Causation in Tort Law?

In order for the claim in tort to be made correctly, it must be shown that the loss or harm was caused as a result of the action taken by the defendant whether directly or indirectly.

The common question asked is: If it was not for the action by the defendant would the harm have occurred? If the answer is no, then causation is made. Causation becomes more complex if more than one possible cause of the harm could exist or if the connection between the harm and the action is somewhat remote.

Tort Law Books

There are many tort law books that will help you with your studies in the subject. Here are just a few of them:

NameAuthorPrice
Tort Law: Text, Cases, and MaterialsJenny Steele£36
Tort LawKirsty Horsey and Erika Rackley£32
Principles of Tort LawRachael Mulheron£30
Tort LawNicholas McBride and Roderick Bagshaw£34
Kidner’s Casebook on TortsKirsty Horsey and Erika Rackley£28

Words: Alicia Gibson

READ NEXT: Public Law guide

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