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Common Law Torts

A common law tort, also simply referred to as a tort, is a civil wrong that results in harm or injury to another person or his property. These wrongs are typically resolved through civil litigation, where the injured party (plaintiff) seeks compensation or damages from the party responsible for the harm (defendant). Common law torts are based on judicial decisions and legal principles that have developed over time, rather than being defined by specific statutes.

Origin: Common law torts have their origins in English common law, similar to common law crimes. Over time, as judges made decisions in various cases, legal principles emerged to address wrongful acts that caused harm to individuals or their property.

Civil liability: Tort law deals with civil liability, meaning that it focuses on disputes between private individuals or entities rather than criminal wrongdoing. The purpose of tort law is to provide a legal remedy (usually in the form of monetary compensation) to individuals who have suffered harm due to the wrongful actions of others.

Elements of a tort: Each tort has specific elements that the plaintiff must prove to establish a claim. These elements can vary depending on the type of tort but generally include things like duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. For example, in a negligence case, the plaintiff typically must show that the defendant owed a duty of care, breached that duty, and that the breach caused harm resulting in damages.

Types of torts: Common law torts cover a wide range of wrongful acts. Some common types of torts include, negligence, Rylands v Fletcher (1868), nuisance, and trespass.

Precedent: Like common law crimes, common law torts rely on legal precedent. Previous court decisions play a significant role in shaping and interpreting tort law. Courts often consider past cases with similar facts when deciding current tort cases.

Civil remedies: When a plaintiff successfully proves his tort claim, the court may order the defendant to pay damages to compensate for the harm suffered. These damages can include monetary compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and property damage, among other things.

Statutory modifications: While many torts are based on common law principles, some jurisdictions have enacted statutes that modify or supplement tort law. These statutes can create additional duties or establish specific procedures for certain types of claims.

In summary, common law torts are civil wrongs based on judicial decisions and legal principles that have developed over time. They provide a legal framework for individuals to seek compensation for harm or injury caused by the wrongful actions of others. Torts encompass a broad spectrum of wrongful conduct, and their application is subject to legal precedent and interpretation by the judiciary.

You can learn more about this topic with our Tort Law notes.

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