1. Introduction to Tort Law
Tort liability can be imposed in many instances that include negligent behaviour towards a person or land, negatively affecting a person’s reputation or limiting freedom of movement. This module will aim to explain and take you through how and why liability can be imposed on a defendant, giving you an in-depth understanding of the nature of tortious liability.
There are many torts that will be discussed in this module. They include, for example, libel, slander, nuisance, negligence, trespass, assault and battery. Thus, it is not possible to provide one definition that encompasses all torts, considering how each tort has its own specific characteristics. It is, therefore, best to think of the law of tort as the law of behaviour that is legally ‘wrong’ or ’tortious’, giving rise to an entitlement to a remedy for the claimant.
Whilst it may not be possible to precisely define what tort is, various principles can be identified that help establish when a tortious liability arises. It has to be noted, however, that there is no predominance of any one principle. The principles that can be turned to are:
- Retributive justice (punishment)
- Economic efficiency
- Loss distribution
Tort law also aims to protect individual interests from a harm that is actual or threatened. However, not all interests are protected and some benefit from better protection than others. This is as a result of the importance of an interest reflected by society through the years. The interests protected include:
- Personal harm
- Harm to property
- Harm to reputation
- Harm to financial interests
- Harm to the due process of law