1.Introduction to Tort Law
The appropriate scope and content of tort law often provoke debate inside and outside of Congress. This In Focus surveys basic tort law principles and identifies pertinent legal considerations for Congress.
2.What Is Tort Law?
A tort is an act or omission that causes legally cognizable harm to persons or property. Tort law, in turn, is the body of rules concerned with remedying harms caused by a person's wrongful or injurious actions. For instance, if a surgeon tasked with amputating a patient's left leg instead amputates the right leg, that patient may be able to pursue a tort lawsuit alleging medical malpractice and seeking monetary damages against the surgeon.
With a few significant exceptions, tort law is largely a matter of state rather than federal law. Tort law has also historically been a matter of common law rather than statutory law; that is, judges (not legislatures) developed many of tort law's fundamental principles through case-bycase adjudication. Over time, however, state legislatures and Congress have begun to intervene in the development of tort law by enacting tort law statutes.
3.Why Does Tort Law Exist?
Tort law serves at least three purposes. First, it facilitates compensation for injuries resulting from wrongful conduct. Second, it can deter persons from acting in ways that may produce harm. Third, it can provide a way of punishing people who wrongfully injure others.
An intentional tort is a category of torts?that describes a civil wrong resulting from an intentional act on the part of the tortfeasor (alleged wrongdoer). The term negligence, on the other hand, pertains to a tort that simply results from the failure of the tortfeasor to take sufficient care in fulfilling a duty owed, while strict liability torts refers to situations where a party is liable for injuries no matter what precautions were taken.
5.Categories Of Intentional Torts
Within the broader category of intentional torts, there are two subcategories that are typically treated as distinct types of tort in their own right and are categorised according to the type of right they infringe upon:
1.Property Torts are a specific class of intentional torts that arise when the right invaded is a property right rather than a personal right. These include trespass to land (entering someone's land without permission), trespass to chattels (handling items owned by another without permission), and conversion (taking possession of someone else's property with the intent not to return it). Some older, and largely obsolete, property law concepts include detinue, replevin, and trover.
2.Dignitary Torts are categorised as such because they violate an individual's dignity, reputation, or privacy. This category of tort includes defamation (i.e. libel, slander, and false light), intrusion on seclusion, breach of confidence, and abuse of process as well as other similar causes of action. Additionally, this category of tort traditionally included actions such as criminal conversation, alienation of affections, breach of promise, and seduction among other actionable wrongs related to sex, marraige, and adultery that are obsolete or moribund in the majority of common law jurisdictions.
6.Tort Law In India
Tort Law In India is primarily governed by judicial precedent as in other common law jurisdictions, supplemented by statutes governing damages, civil procedure, and codifying common law torts. As in other common law jurisdictions, a tort is breach of a non-contractual duty which has caused damage to the plaintiff giving rise to a civil cause of action and for which remedy is available. If a remedy does not exist, a tort has not been committed since the rationale of tort law is to provide a remedy to the person who has been wronged.
While Indian tort law is generally derived from English Law, there are certain differences between the two systems. Indian tort law uniquely includes remedies for constitutional torts, which are actions by the government that infringe upon rights enshrined in the Constitution, as well as a system of absolute liability?for businesses engaged in hazardous activity.
Defamation law in India largely resembles that of England And Wales. Indian courts have endorsed the defences of absolute and qualified privilege,fair comment, and justification. While statutory law in the United Kingdom provides that, if the defendant is only successful in proving the truth of some of the several charges against him, the defence of justification might still be available if the charges not proved do not materially injure the reputation, there is no corresponding provision in India, though it is likely that Indian courts would treat this principle as persuasive precedent. Recently, incidents of defamation in relation to public figures have attracted public attention.
In Indian law, there is little distinction between libel and slander and both are actionable per se. In United Kingdom, only libel and certain types of slander are actionable per se. Similarly, while criminal libel in UK was abolished in 2010, both slander and libel remain criminal offences in India and other jurisdictions applying versions of the Indian Penal Code. Consequently, individuals liable for defamation in India are subject not just to damages under tort law but also to imprisonment under criminal law. In addition to damages, courts may also issue an injunction to stop further publication of defamatory material.
Negligence is a failure to exercise appropriate and/or ethical ruled care expected to be exercised amongst specified circumstances. With regard to negligence, Indian jurisprudence follows the approach stated in Ratanlal Dhirajlal: The Law of Torts, laying down three elements:
1.A duty of care (i.e. a legal duty to exercise "ordinary care and skill")
2.A violation of the appropriate standard of care
3.Causation (i.e. the violation resulted in injury to the plaintiff's person or property)
The Indian approach to professional negligence requires that any skilled task requires a skilled professional. Such a professional would be expected to be exercising his skill with reasonable competence. Professionals may be held liable for negligence on one of two findings:
1.They were not possessed of the requisite skill which he professed to have possessed.
2.They did not exercise, with reasonable competence in the given case, the skill which he did possess. The standard to be applied for determining whether or not either of the two findings can be made is whether a competent person exercising ordinary skill in that profession would possess or exercise in a similar manner the skill in question. Consequently, it is not necessary for every professional to possess the highest level of expertise in that branch which he practices. Professional opinion is generally accepted, but courts may rule otherwise if they feel that the opinion is "not reasonable or responsible".
India's tort system has been criticised for a variety of reasons, ranging from delays and outdated procedural rules to substantive criticism of the implications of its system of absolute liability and the unpredictability of judicial activism?enabled by constitutional torts.
Tort law plays a vital role in addressing civil wrongs and providing justice to those who have suffered harm. Whether intentional, negligent, or based on strict liability, tort cases help maintain a balance between individual rights and societal interests. Understanding the principles, categories, and legal remedies of tort law is essential for both legal professionals and the general public.
- Congressional Research Service (last visited 15th November) Available at https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11291
- Defamation and certain areas of Negligence are criminalised in the Indian Penal Code, Act No. 45 of 1860
- Ratanlal Dhirajlal, Singh J, G.P. (ed.),The Law of Torts(24th.ed.), Butterworths
- Ramanathan, Usha, Tort Law In India 1994, International Environmental Law Research Centre, retrieved 16 October 2011
- Pukhraj v State of Rajasthan SCC (Cri) 944.