The word “tort” means “wrong” in French. Thus, torts are wrongs committed against others who suffer some form of damage as a result. While these damages could also be the result of criminal activity, the criminal element of the matter is not tried in a civil lawsuit. The standard of proof is lower for civil suits, and a finding of liability in a tort case does not necessarily translate to guilt in a criminal case.
The actor of the wrongs has historically been called a tortfeasor. When a wrong is committed by a tortfeasor, the damage is done to another. Tort law seeks to address this damage based on the circumstances of the issue, which is based on fault. Civil lawsuits are used by the injured parties to seek redress for the loss associated with the tort. Unlike criminal proceedings, redress is often provided in the form of money as opposed to incarceration. As such, the burden of proof of fault is lower. The offender, or tortfeasor, who commits the act is the accused in a civil suit. The plaintiff, who is the injured party, files the lawsuit on which the civil court will make a decision. The offender ultimately becomes the defendant, who must respond to the accusations of the plaintiff in a civil suit. During tort litigation, the judge and jury have certain separate functions (Kionka, 2013):
|The Judge Decides Issues of Law||The Jury Decides Questions of Fact|
|The duty of the defendant to the plaintiff, if any||What happened|
|The elements of the defense||Legal consequences of what happened|
|Application of legal rules||The damages suffered by the plaintiff|
Two types of torts are intentional torts and negligence. Intentional torts occur as a result of a conscious and purposeful act. Negligence occurs when an individual does not exercise the duty of care. Torts are acts or omissions that result in injury or harm to an individual in such a way that it leads to a civil wrong that occurs as a liability. In tort law, harm can be defined as a loss or disadvantage suffered as a result of the actions or omissions of another. This loss can be physical harm, such as slipping and falling on a wet floor, or personal property harm, such as allowing water to ruin furniture. The damage is the result of what someone else did, or did not do, either intentionally or based on a lack of reasonable care.
There are two basic elements to torts: damages and compensation (Laws, tort.laws.com). Tort law acts to compensate persons who have suffered damages at the hands of another (Baime, 2018). Tort law determines the legal responsibility of the defendant and the value of the harm. Different types of torts look at different types of circumstances.
Intentional torts are committed by an offender who understands that he or she is committing a tort. Intent does not always equate to directly causing an end result. In some cases, the intent maybe something else, such as the possession of knowledge that some harm may occur. The harm may result from intentional action, or due to some circumstance that the offender feels will be excusable (Kionka, 2013).
Some circumstances that could allow the defendant to argue that the action is excusable would include: permission by the injured party, or defense of property, self, or another person (Kionka, 2013). If the injured party agrees to allow the defendant to juggle knives and one slips and causes harm, the action might be excusable to some extent. If a defendant caused harm to the plaintiff’s car while trying to avoid being hit by the car, it would likely be excusable. Different types of intentional torts are based on different circumstances and face different remedies, or means of recovering losses (Baime, 2018):
- Assault is an intentional tort that occurs when an individual has a reasonable apprehension of an intentional act that is designed to cause harm to himself or herself, or to another person.
- Malicious prosecution occurs when an individual files groundless complaints to initiate a criminal matter against another.
- Defamation occurs when an individual intentionally creates and promotes malicious falsehoods about another. Defamation can occur in two ways: slander and libel. Slander is, in effect, when falsehoods are spoken. Libel occurs when falsehoods are expressed in written or other recorded forums.
- Invasion of privacy involves the unwanted production of negative public information. Different standards apply to invasion of privacy based on the status of the individual as a public figure.
- Business Law I Essentials. OpenStax. https://openstax.org/books/business-law-i-essentials/pages/1-introduction