THE LAW OF TORTS
What is a Tort?
A tort is a private wrong committed by one
person against another.
Interference with another person’s rights.
However…such an offense does not call upon
government to punish wrongdoers.
So then…what is the difference
between a crime and a tort?
Crimes harm not only specific individuals, but
also the general welfare.
Torts lead the wronged party to try and
recover money as compensation for the loss
or injury suffered.
Can a single action, such as
murder, be both a tort and a crime?
You tell me!
O.J. Simpson Case Questions…
1. Who are the parties involved in the case?
2. Describe the issue that the court must
decide; what is the nature of the case?
3. What is the penalty or remedy being sought
in the case?
4. What must the person bringing the case
prove to win?
5. Why do these cases not constitute double
States that all people are entitled to certain
rights simply because they are members of a
society, such as:
Right to be free from bodily harm
The right to enjoy a good reputation
Right to conduct business without unwarranted
The right to own property free from damage or
Real or Fake…You Decide!
A 13-year-old boy from Staten Island -- who is now 5 feet 4
inches tall and 278 pounds -- claims he didn't know that eating
three-to-four fast food meals a week would add to his girth.
A man is suing a local McDonald's fast food outlet for
allegedly being too heavy on the black pepper. The lawsuit
says that a 61-year-old cancer patient, coughed up black
pepper, sneezed, and suffered a bloody nose after eating a
"breakfast burrito supersaturated with black pepper." He said
he can only eat soft foods because of his radiation treatment,
accuses the restaurant's employees of negligence and seeks
to recover damages stemming from the physical and mental
injuries brought on by the peppered burrito.
Real or Fake…You Decide!
The attorney who sued Clint Eastwood over disability
accommodations at his hotel near Carmel was himself sued on
allegations his office bathroom was not wheelchair friendly.
A New Jersey couple is suing the Kellogg Co., as well as
appliance maker Black & Decker Corp., for $100,000 in
damages, alleging that a cherry Pop-Tart they put in their toaster
turned into a blowtorch and burned down their house. The
couple admitted to leaving their house while the Pop-Tart was
heating up, despite the warning label on the box advising
against leaving food unattended in the toaster.
Scott Bender of Philadelphia sued U.S. Airways for negligence,
claiming he thought the plane he was on had crashed and he
was dead after the crew left him asleep on the aircraft. It was
really dark, said his lawyer, and Bender "didn't know if he was
alive or dead" -- it turned out the former. Now the snoozing
passenger wants money for mental and emotional anguish.
Real or Fake…You Decide!
A judge in Germany is suing Coca-Cola, claiming the habit of
drinking two Cokes a day for many years caused him to develop
diabetes. He is also suing MasterFoods since he ate lots of candy
bars that they make -- Mars, Snickers, and Milky Way -- and
believes labels should have been put on these sugary products
warning consumers of possible health risks.
A Levittown, Pa., teenager sued her former softball coach for
$700,000 in damages. She claims that bad coaching cost her a
college athletic scholarship.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, a dozen students who
took a Microsoft computer certification course at the Houston
branch of Southern Methodist University are suing the school,
contending they were misled the course would be easy. The 12
enrolled in June 1997 and all failed certification tests that would
have made them eligible for jobs overseeing Microsoft computer
Real or Fake…You Decide!
Former "Munsters" television star Al Lewis filed a lawsuit to be
listed on the ballot for governor in New York as "Grandpa." The
lawsuit was filed against the New York State Board of Elections
because he said by not listing him on the ballot as "Grandpa Al
Lewis" voters would be confused and not cast an informed vote.
"Unfortunately, wacky lawsuits are just the tip of the
lawsuit abuse iceberg," said Jon Opelt, director of
Houston's Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. "Junk
lawsuits waste tax dollars and tie up court time. That
means the rest of us pay when others use our courts
for frivolous reasons. What's more, it means people
with legitimate claims have to wait longer to have
their case heard."
In pairs, students will locate 3 notices placed
around school that they feel is meant to reduce
liability in relation to torts.
Occurs when a person knows and desires the
consequences of his/her act.
The most common intentional torts are:
Assault & battery
Invasion of privacy
Assault & Battery
2 separate torts.
May or may not be committed together.
Assault: one person deliberately leads another person
to believe that he/she is about to be harmed.
Battery: involves the unlawful, unprivileged touching
of another person, even if the physical contact is not
Must know that the tortfeasor, or the person
who committed the tort, meant to commit
Wrongful damage to The tort of nuisance is
or interference with the anything that interferes
property (anything you with the enjoyment of
own) of another. life or property.
Includes cars, DVDs, CD Includes loud noises at
players, purses, wallets, night, noxious odors, or
and real property. smoke or fumes coming
from a nearby house.
False Imprisonment Defamation
Law enforcement The wrongful act of
makes an arrest injuring another’s
without having a reputation by making
probable cause or false statements.
warrant. Divided into 2
They can then be sued categories:
for false imprisonment, Libel: a false statement
or false arrest, is they in written or printed form.
make an arrest without Slander: a false
meeting the above statement that is made
orally to a third party.
Invasion of Privacy
Interfering with a person’s
right to be left alone,
including the right to be free
from unwanted publicity,
interference with private
Federal Privacy Act of 1974
Fair Credit Reporting Act
Right to Financial Privacy Act
Defenses to Intentional Torts
Consent: Where a defendant has the plaintiff's consent to commit
an act of assault or battery, the plaintiff may not later bring a lawsuit.
In sports, injuries that result from rule violations that are part of
ordinary play are unlikely to support a legal action.
Police Conduct: A police officer is privileged to apply the threat of
force, or if necessary to apply actual force, in order to make a lawful
A defendant who suffers injury as the result of reasonable force
exerted by the police to make a lawful arrest will not be able to
sustain a lawsuit against the arresting officers for assault or
Self-Defense: A person can use such reasonable force as may be
necessary to protect himself.
Defenses to Intentional Torts
Voluntary (Mutual) Combat: Where the
plaintiff voluntarily engages in a fight with
the defendant for the sake of fighting and
not as a means of self-defense, the
plaintiff may not recover for an assault or
battery unless the defendant beats the
plaintiff excessively or uses unreasonable
Defense of Property: Many jurisdictions
allow the use of some amount of threat or
force by a person who is seeking to
protect his or her own property from theft
However, there is no privilege to use force
that may cause death or serious injury unless
the property owner is threatened with death
or serious injury.
Provocation: Words alone, no matter how
insulting or provocative, do not justify an
assault or battery.
A person can breach his/her duty in society
through other ways than by committing an
Negligence: Injury that is caused by a person’s mere
Strict Liability: Injury caused by an individual’s
participation in ultrahazardous activity.
Elements of Negligence
A plaintiff must prove all of the following
1. Duty of care
2. Breach of duty
3. Proximate cause
4. Actual harm
Duty Of Care
Everyone has a duty to exercise due care all of
What is due care?
Due care is the amount of care that a
reasonable person would exercise under the
What is a reasonable person?
A reasonable person who takes the precautions
necessary to avoid harming another person or
Can you think of examples of due care that
each of the following people must exercise?:
A lifeguard at a municipal pool.
Actively scanning the pool.
A lumberjack cutting down a tree.
Yelling “timber” and making sure area is clear.
An owner of an aggressive dog.
Keeping dog on leash or fenced in.
A high school football coach.
Making sure players do not play injured.
Breach of Duty
Once you determine due care, you ask, did the
defendant follow that due care?
Breach of duty: not exercising the degree of care that
a reasonable person would exercise in that same
For example, if the standard of care requires the
owner of an aggressive dog to keep the dog on
a leash and the owner does not do so they
have breached the duty of care.
Proximate cause: “Was the injury to the plaintiff
foreseeable at the time the defendant engaged in
This is Ken Griffey Jr. Ken Griffey likes to practice his swing in his
living room. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to disaster.
One day, while practicing his swing in his
living room, Ken loses his grip on the bat.
The bat flies into the sitting room and hits
his wife’s friend in the head, causing
Is there proximate causation?
The basic idea of damages is fairly simple: All
injuries can be reduced to a monetary amount.
Actual harm: “Did the plaintiff suffer physical injuries,
property damage, or financial loss?”
The real difficulty comes in calculating
damages. For example, it is pretty easy to figure
out how much a totaled car is worth, but it’s not
so easy to figure out how much eyesight is
Betty and Derek are walking to school. Steven
is driving down the street talking to his friends
in the backseat. One of Steven’s friends
screams “Look out!” Steven reacts by turning
the wheel of his car, which jumps the curb and
pins Betty’s arm to the wall crushing it. What
remains of Betty’s arm needs to be amputated.
Q1: How much is Betty’s arm worth?
Q2: Does the answer change if Betty was a concert pianist?
Q3: What if Betty simply wanted to be a concert pianist, but
wasn’t one yet?
Defenses to Negligence
People can defend themselves in a negligence
suit by eliminating 1 of the 4 elements:
Owed no duty to the plaintiff.
Conduct conformed to the reasonable person
Conduct was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s
Plaintiff suffered no injuries.
Defenses to Negligence (cont.)
Contributory negligence: behavior by the
plaintiff that helps cause his or her injuries.
Even if plaintiff contributes to only 1% of their injuries,
they will not receive a dime!
Comparative negligence: the amount of the
plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by the percent of
his or her negligence.
50% Rule: the plaintiff is allowed to recover part of the
award as long as his/her negligence was not greater
than that of the defendant.
Assumption of risk: defendant must show the
plaintiff knew of the risk involved and still took
the chance of being injured.
Ex.) cigarette smoking
Strictdangerous that the law will
Some activities are so
apply neither the principles of negligence nor the
rules of intentional torts.
According to strict liability, if these activities injure
someone or damage property, the people
engaged in the activities will be held liable,
regardless of how careful they were and regardless
of their intent.
Ex.) using explosives, keeping wild animals, and storing highly
flammable liquids in densely populated areas.