The tort litigation system is a legal process used to resolve disputes between individuals or entities (such as corporations) when another has wronged one party. Tort law covers a wide range of civil wrongs, including negligence, intentional harm, and strict liability. In a tort case, the injured party (plaintiff) files a lawsuit against the alleged wrongdoer (defendant), seeking compensation for damages suffered as a result of the defendant’s actions.
The case is heard in court, where the plaintiff must prove that the defendant is liable for their injuries. If the plaintiff is successful, the court may award them damages, which can include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
There are two justice systems in the United States: the civil justice system and the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system uses criminal law to punish defendants. In contrast, the civil legal system uses tort law to provide a remedy to the plaintiffs for their injuries or harm. Let’s explore the tort litigation system with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.
The reflection upon tort law dates way back to the time of Aristotle and made its way into medieval discussions. Aristotle, in his writings, made a distinction between the roles of the court in providing the public with a remedy for private disputes from the role of government officials.
It wasn’t until the 20th century when philosophical writing of torts developed, and jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr pioneered the study of law more approachable since civil law jurisdictions drew on the excessive formalism of legal scholarship and education writing. Holmes worked with an English legal scholar, Sir Frederick Pollock, and set a pair of questions for tort theory that played a crucial role in modern tort law.
Tort law covers legal proceedings in the civil court besides contractual disputes, which fall under contract law. The primary aim of tort law is to “fix” harm or injury to a person by the defendant and provide them with relief, in most cases, in the form of monetary compensation.
Tort law recognizes any damages or harm caused by the actions of an individual for which the law provides a remedy. These damages include lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. However, in some cases, the court may also award in excess of the compensation, and these are punitive damages aimed at punishing the defendant.
There are three categories the tort law is divided into, and these are:
The basis of personal injury cases is the tort system that helps injured parties hold people or entities responsible for the damages suffered from their actions.
Most tort cases arise out of another’s negligence, and in such cases, it is essential to prove the elements of a negligence case, which are as follows:
These elements vary slightly for intentional torts and strict liability torts.
Let’s review a few classic examples of tort law to help you understand the concept and liability under each tort law category.
In the case of Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co, the plaintiff was waiting at a railway station when the two men boarding the train before her, assisted by the railroad employees, dropped a fireworks package that exploded. The explosion caused a large coin-operated scale to fall onto the plaintiff, causing injuries that eventually caused her to stammer.
The plaintiff sued the railroad company for their employee’s negligence at the Kings County Supreme Court, leading to a jury verdict of $6,000. However, the defendant appealed the decision, but the appellate division ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed again.
Chief Judge Benjamin Cardozo found the appellate division decision flawed. He ruled in favor of the defendant, stating that the railroad employee assisting the man did not have a duty toward the plaintiff as the injury was not foreseeable harm. Cardozo’s concept of tort liability arising from the breach of duty causing injuries to another person became widely accepted into American law.
In the Garratt v. Dailey case, the defendant, a 5-year-old child, moved a chair on which the plaintiff was about to sit, causing her to fall and suffer injuries. The plaintiff brought a civil action against the defendant for battery in the Supreme Court of Washington.
The trial judge ruled in favor of the defendant, stating that the boy did not have the intent, but the plaintiff appealed the decision. According to the court, there could be battery if the defendant knew with substantial certainty that the plaintiff would sit on the chair. The absence of the intent to injure or to play a joke does not eliminate the liability for the defendant.
Under these descriptions, the court sent the issue back to the trial court to find whether the defendant knew with substantial certainty. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, stating that the defendant knew with substantial certainty that the plaintiff would sit on the chair, which was sufficient to show intent.
In the case of MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co, a plaintiff suffered injuries when one of his 1909 Buick Runabout wheels collapsed, causing the plaintiff to sue Buick. The defendant argued that they did not manufacture the wheel but only installed it. The court found that the inspection could’ve revealed the defective wheel and prevented the accident from happening. The defendant denied responsibility, stating that the plaintiff purchased the vehicle from the car dealer, not the manufacturer.
Cardozo stated that the defendant’s duty is to ensure that their vehicles and the components they install in them are safe. The defendant cannot escape liability because the plaintiff did not have a direct contract with the company manufacturing the parts. This decision removed the privity of the contract and became grounds for torts involving strict liability.
Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys have over 15 years of experience handling tort claims and tort lawsuits. If you suffered injuries due to another’s fault, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be eligible for compensation.
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.