Tort Law is a set of legal rules and ideas to protect you from harm vindicating your rights. Tort Law is generally concerned with civil obligations. There are many different ideas on inside that which we might have to unpack. First off, civil, so that means not criminal. For this purpose, there are many different parts of law and civil and criminal law to the ones you may have heard of. So civil law deals with a whole bunch of different parts and one of them is Tort and other ones are things like contract or potentially unjust enrichment. To compare contrast it, the other one that you might thought of as criminal law. Criminal law is a difficult kind of issue but let’s say it deals with the state’s power over individuals.
Now, what does an obligation mean? Essentially, it means that you are bound to do something or not to do something. Let’s pause for a moment there to consider the criminal law. Briefly, there are many different crimes and there are a very large number of thoughts. Very often they overlap. So, the same conduct will be both the Crime and the Tort. For example:- You might have heard of about assault or battery. It’s both the wrong for the criminal law and a wrong in tort law. The major difference being that the state regards these wrongs in criminal law as being important enough for the state to want to investigate and prosecute and punish.
Let’s turn to contract law. Contract law can be difficult but as a rough generalization it means that you are entering into an obligation to another person, typically voluntarily. It is usually a way for you to try to advance your interests in some form of mutual deal. Sometimes it said that tort law protects health while contract law promotes wealth.
There are also other categories. One is quickly to mention is unjust enrichment. Unlike contract and unlike criminal law here, we’re not necessarily dealing with something that you would call a wrong but we’re dealing with something that’s just happened in some cases. For instance: I think I owe someone ten pounds and I give them ten pounds. It turns out I don’t own them ten pounds. Can I get my ten pounds back? It’s not necessarily the case that I or they have done anything wrong.
We’ve established roughly where Tort Law sits and what it’s trying to do? It’s trying to provide compensation and it’s trying to vindicate some of the rights that you have. But we now need to think a little bit more about how Tort Law will work in practice and to do that, I’d like to take four examples:
- Imagine somebody bumps into you and causes you to drop the shopping you’re carrying. This causes some breakage of bottles and eggs and whatever it is you’ve got in your shopping. While in practice you may not want to litigate. What do you do if you do want to litigate? Doesn’t seem obvious therefore, that because they damage the shopping, they should have to pay for the damage done, that sounds appealing doesn’t it?
- It turns out the bumper was pushed and knocked by somebody else into your shopping. Should he pay then? The bumper wasn’t pushed but through no fault of their own, you step out suddenly and they bump into you, they couldn’t see you and you walked out in the most ridiculous fashion and it was not at all their problem. In fact, really, you were the cause of why there was a bump? Nonetheless, your view was they bumped you and you’d stop moving it just that moment. So that’s another example, Should the bump pay there?
- The bumper slips on some incredibly slippery surface that no one could see at that point. They didn’t do anything that you might regard as being wrong and they just happened to slip. It could have happened to anyone and they bumped into your shopping. Who should pay for the shopping? Should the bumper pay?
- I’ll have to admit it’s a bit of a trick. I said your shopping and I said the shopping you were carrying but I didn’t yet say that you are the owner of the shopping. So if we shift the scenario slightly you’re still in the supermarket and you haven’t actually paid for the shopping, yet you are taking it to the counter to pay. At that point the property in your shopping bags or shopping basket or shopping trolley actually still belongs to the supermarket so why should the bumper pay you? Shouldn’t they pay the supermarket.
The above mentioned four examples suggest that it’s not as simple as saying merely the person who caused damage should pay for it. All those examples focused on the Tort of Negligence.