Tort law lesson

1. Read these questions.

What is a tort? Is it civil or criminal? Is it contractual or non-contractual?

2. Now watch this video.

3. Read the following short explanation of tort law. Complete the gaps using the words in italics.

Act / act / causing / chattels / civil / defective / discrimination / individual / natural / negative / negligence / negligent / passer-by / punitive / real property / statutory

A tort is a _____ wrong resulting in injury that is ordinarily remedied by damages. A tortfeasor may be a legal or _______ person. Likewise, an ________ or company may be injured by a tortious ____. A person’s body or reputation, ________, __________ and business interests may be the subject of tortious acts.

Torts fall into three general categories: intentional, eg, deliberately striking another person with one’s fist; ­­­­­­_________, eg, _______ a road traffic accident (RTA) by carelessly failing to heed traffic signals; and strict liability, eg, the manufacture and distribution of ________ products. Most torts arise from the ­­­­common law, although there are a number of ________ torts, eg, race ____________ in employment, which is unlawful pursuant to an ____ of Parliament.

In contract law, the parties assume obligations towards each other by virtue of their agreement. Those obligations are often positive, eg, the obligation to pay money in return for the good or service received. Tort law, however, imposes obligations that are almost invariably________: not to drive in a manner that harms another road user; not to play loud music at 3am every morning in a residential area; not to treat another’s property as one’s own. Tort law rarely imposes an obligation to do something. For example, a ___________ who sees a small boy drowning in a puddle is not obliged to rescue him.

While some torts may attract _________ or exemplary damages which penalise the tortfeasor, most result only in awards of compensatory damages designed to put the injured party in the position he or she would have been in had the tortious act not been committed.

In legal practice the most frequently encountered tort is ­­­­­­­­_________, very often on the highway, resulting in personal injury claims. Road users injured by negligent drivers receive an amount of financial compensation, known as quantum, which ordinarily has two heads: general damages and special damages. General damages attempt to compensate for the pain and suffering of the victim; special damages are calculated on the basis of money spent or lost by the victim, eg, cost of medical care and loss of earnings.

4. Check your answers at the bottom of the page.


5. The text contains a number of formal words and phrases that can be replaced by more informal terms. Use the less formal terms in italics to replace the underlined formal words and phrases.

a person who commits the wrong (x2) / an award of money / come / common / goods / land / making or selling / normally / not paying attention to / person / punching someone / road / take on / way / which aim

A tort is a civil wrong resulting in injury that is ordinarily remedied by damages. A tortfeasor may be a legal or natural person. Likewise, an individual or company may be injured by a tortious act. A person’s body or reputation, chattels, real property and business interests may be the subject of tortious acts.

Torts fall into three general categories: intentional, eg, deliberately striking another person with a clenched fist; ­­­­­­negligent, eg, causing a road traffic accident (RTA) by carelessly failing to heed traffic signals; and strict liability, eg, the manufacture and/or distribution of defective products. Most torts arise from the ­common law, although there are a number of statutory torts, eg, race discrimination in employment, which is unlawful pursuant to an Act of Parliament.

Contracting parties assume obligations towards each other by virtue of their agreement. Those obligations are often positive, eg, the obligation to pay money in return for the good or service received. Tort law, however, imposes obligations that are almost invariably negative: not to drive in a manner that harms another road user; not to play loud music at 3am every morning in a residential area; not to treat another’s property as one’s own. Tort law rarely imposes an obligation to do something. For example, a passer-by who sees a small boy drowning in a puddle is not obliged to rescue him.

While some torts may attract punitive or exemplary damages which penalise the tortfeasor, most result only in awards of compensatory damages designed to put the injured party in the position he or she would have been in had the tortious act not been committed.

In legal practice the most frequently encountered tort is ­­­­­­­­negligence, very often on the highway, resulting in personal injury claims. Road users injured by negligent drivers receive an amount of financial compensation, known as quantum, which ordinarily has two heads: general damages and special damages. General damages attempt to compensate for the pain and suffering of the victim; special damages are calculated on the basis of money spent or lost by the victim, eg, cost of medical care and loss of earnings.

6. Check your answers at the bottom of the page.


7. Watch this video. The speaker mentions ‘duty of care’ and ‘standard of care.’ What do you think they mean?

8. Read the following summary of the tort of negligence.

Negligence has five elements, all of which must be present for a claim for negligence to succeed.

Duty of care

English law has a threefold test for the existence of a duty of care. Harm must be (i) reasonably foreseeable; (ii) there must be a relationship of proximity between the parties and (3) it must be ‘fair, just and reasonable’ to impose liability.

Breach of duty

We all have a duty to exercise reasonable care toward others and their property. There is a breach of the duty if a person’s acts or omissions fall below the required standard of care, which is the standard of care of the reasonable person performing the activity in question, eg, the reasonable driver, the reasonable doctor, or the reasonable lawyer.

Causation

For a defendant to be held liable, it must be shown that the particular acts or omissions were the cause of the loss or damage sustained.

Remoteness (UK) or proximate cause (US)

The harm suffered cannot be too remote from the tortious act, that is, it cannot be a very remote consequence which could not have been anticipated. However, if the type of harm was foreseeable, the unforeseeable manner in which it occurred does not preclude liability.

Harm

The negligent act must cause loss or damage.

9. How does the law of your jurisdiction deal with negligence? Does it have concepts equivalent to the duty of care, breach, causation, remoteness and harm?


10. Read about vicarious liability.

Mr Smith is employed as a delivery driver by Acme Supermarkets. He is driving the delivery van to a customer’s home when he switches on the radio. Because he is not concentrating on the road ahead, he drives through a red light and knocks Ms Brown off her bike. Ms Brown sustains a fractured arm as a result. Mr Smith’s driving fell below the required standard of care, namely that of the “reasonable driver.” In view of the facts, Ms Brown has a cause of action in negligence. She can bring a claim against Acme Supermarkets because Mr. Smith’s negligent act occurred in the course of his employment with Acme Supermarkets. Liability for an employee’s tortious act is known as vicarious liability.

11. Read the solicitor’s letter below. Complete it using words or phrases you have seen in the exercises above

‘Ref: HM/1768/Brown

Our client:      Ms A.Brown

Re: Accident at the crossroads of Head Lane and Stocksfield Ave., Leeds

Dear Sirs,

We act for the above-named client with regard to a personal ­­­­­­­________ she _________ as a result of a road traffic accident that took place at the crossroads of Head Lane and Stocksfield Avenue, Leeds, at around 2.30pm, 17th January 2010. The said junction has traffic lights which control the flow of traffic.

We are instructed that our client was riding her bicycle along Stocksfield Avenue towards the crossroads with Head Lane. The traffic lights were in her favour. Our client cycled straight on to cross Head Lane and continue along Stocksfield Avenue. At the same time your employee Mr Smith was driving one of your delivery vans along Head Lane. The traffic lights were showing red, requiring Mr Smith to stop. However, he failed to stop and proceeded through the lights, colliding with our client who fell to the ground, injuring herself. The incident was witnessed by a ___________, Mr Jones, who has made a written account of the incident which we enclose.

Following the collision our client went to hospital where she was diagnosed as having a fracture to her right radius. The arm was put in a cast for four weeks. Once the cast was removed our client received 10 sessions of physiotherapy to recover full movement in her wrist. Our client has now made a full recovery.

Our client is a self-employed translator. As a result of the incident she was unable to work for six weeks and has suffered ____  ___  ________.  Further, our client had to pay taxi fares to attend her physiotherapy sessions. Please see the enclosed schedule of ______  ______ for further details.

Our client’s loss and damage is a result of Mr Smith’s negligent driving which fell below the required _________ since he was not ______  _______   ___ to the road ahead of him and ______  __  _______ the traffic lights. Given that he was acting as your employee you are _______  _______. As such, our client has a valid ________ against you in _____________.’

12. Check your answers at the bottom of the page.


13. Read about the relationship between tort law and criminal law.

A tort is a civil, as opposed to a criminal, wrong. However, civil and criminal law sometimes overlap in relation to torts. In the above example Mr Smith’s driving was below the standards required in civil and criminal law: in tort, the “reasonable driver”; in criminal law, the “competent and careful driver.” He has committed both the tort of negligence and the offence of careless driving.

14. Now read the list below and match the tort with the similar or overlapping criminal offence.

Negligence___________________ Careless driving

Battery                                                           Theft

Deceit                                                             Kidnapping

Conversion                                                   Racially aggravated harassment

Race discrimination                                 Criminal damage

False imprisonment                                  Fraud

Trespass to chattels                                  Assault occasioning actual bodily harm

15. Check your answers at the bottom of the page.

16. Look at exercises 10 and 11. Imagine that Ms Brown is your client in your jurisdiction. Write a letter to her, advising her who she can claim against, in which court(s) she can claim and what damages, if any, she will receive.

17. Read about torts on wikipedia


______________________________________________________________________________________

ANSWERS

Stage 3

A tort is a civil wrong resulting in injury that is ordinarily remedied by damages. A tortfeasor may be a legal or natural person. Likewise, an individual or company may be injured by a tortious act. A person’s body or reputation, chattels, real property and business interests may be the subject of tortious acts.

Torts fall into three general categories: intentional, eg, deliberately striking another person with a clenched fist; ­­­­­­negligent, eg, causing a road traffic accident (RTA) by carelessly failing to heed traffic signals; and strict liability, eg, the manufacture and/or distribution of defective products. Most torts arise from the ­common law, although there are a number of statutory torts, eg, race discrimination in employment, which is unlawful pursuant to an Act of Parliament.

Contracting parties assume obligations towards each other by virtue of their agreement. Those obligations are often positive, eg, the obligation to pay money in return for the good or service received. Tort law, however, imposes obligations that are almost invariably negative: not to drive in a manner that harms another road user; not to play loud music at 3am every morning in a residential area; not to treat another’s property as one’s own. Tort law rarely imposes an obligation to do something. For example, a passer-by who sees a small boy drowning in a puddle is not obliged to rescue him.

While some torts may attract punitive or exemplary damages which penalise the tortfeasor, most result only in awards of compensatory damages designed to put the injured party in the position he or she would have been in had the tortious act not been committed.

In legal practice the most frequently encountered tort is ­­­­­­­­negligence, very often on the highway, resulting in personal injury claims. Road users injured by negligent drivers receive an amount of financial compensation, known as quantum, which ordinarily has two heads: general damages and special damages. General damages attempt to compensate for the pain and suffering of the victim; special damages are calculated on the basis of money spent or lost by the victim, eg, cost of medical care and loss of earnings.

 

Stage 5

A tort is a civil wrong resulting in injury that is ordinarily remedied by an award of money. A person who commits the wrong may be a legal or natural person. Likewise, an individual or company may be injured by a tortious act. A person’s body or reputation, goods, land and business interests may be the subject of tortious acts.

Torts fall into three general categories: intentional, eg, deliberately punching someone; negligent, eg, causing a road traffic accident (RTA) by not paying attention to traffic signals; and strict liability, eg, making or selling defective products. Most torts come from the ­common law, although there are a number of statutory torts, eg, race discrimination in employment, which is unlawful pursuant to an Act of Parliament.

Contracting parties take on obligations towards each other by virtue of their agreement. Those obligations are often positive, eg, the obligation to pay money in return for the good or service received. Tort law, however, imposes obligations that are normally negative: not to drive in a way that harms another road user; not to play loud music at 3am every morning in a residential area; not to treat another’s property as one’s own. Tort law rarely imposes an obligation to do something. For example, a person who sees a small boy drowning in a puddle is not obliged to rescue him.

While some torts may attract punitive or exemplary damages which penalise the person who commits the wrong, most result only in awards of compensatory damages which aim to put the injured party in the position he or she would have been in had the tortious act not been committed.

In legal practice the most common tort is ­­­­­­­­negligence on the road, resulting in personal injury claims. Road users injured by negligent drivers receive an amount of financial compensation, known as quantum, which ordinarily has two heads: general damages and special damages. General damages attempt to compensate for the pain and suffering of the victim; special damages are calculated on the basis of money spent or lost by the victim, eg, cost of medical care and loss of earnings.

Stage 11.

‘Ref: HM/1768/Brown

Our client:      Ms A.Brown

Re: Accident at the crossroads of Head Lane and Stocksfield Ave., Leeds

Dear Sirs,

We act for the above-named client with regard to a personal ­­­­­­­injury she sustained as a result of a road traffic accident that took place at the crossroads of Head Lane and Stocksfield Avenue, Leeds, at around 2.30pm, 17th January 2010. The said junction has traffic lights which control the flow of traffic.

We are instructed that our client was riding her bicycle along Stocksfield Avenue towards the crossroads with Head Lane. The traffic lights were in her favour. Our client cycled straight on to cross Head Lane and continue along Stocksfield Avenue. At the same time your employee Mr Smith was driving one of your delivery vans along Head Lane. The traffic lights were showing red, requiring Mr Smith to stop. However, he failed to stop and proceeded through the lights, colliding with our client who fell to the ground, injuring herself. The incident was witnessed by a passer-by, Mr Jones, who has made a written account of the incident which we enclose.

Following the collision our client went to hospital where she was diagnosed as having a fracture to her right radius. The arm was put in a cast for four weeks. Once the cast was removed our client received 10 sessions of physiotherapy to recover full movement in her wrist. Our client has now made a full recovery.

Our client is a self-employed translator. As a result of the incident she was unable to work for six weeks and has suffered loss of earnings.  Further, our client had to pay taxi fares to attend her physiotherapy sessions. Please see the enclosed schedule of special damages for further details.

Our client’s loss and damage is a result of Mr Smith’s negligent driving which fell below the required standard since he was not paying attention to the road ahead of him and failed to heed the traffic lights. Given that he was acting as your employee you are vicariously liable. As such, our client has a valid claim against you in negligence.’

Stage 14.

Negligence                                 Careless driving

Battery                                         Assault occasioning actual bodily harm

Deceit                                           Fraud

Conversion                                Theft

Race discrimination               Racially aggravated harassment

Trespass to chattels                Criminal damage

False imprisonment                Kidnapping

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Copyright notice:

With the exception of the youtube videos, the above material is copyright of Hugh Milburn – © Hugh Milburn, 2011. All rights reserved.

Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the aforesaid material in any form is prohibited other than the following:

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  1. Pingback: Free tort law exercises « Inglés Jurídico

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