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Date Modified: September 9, 2023

A tort is when a person or an entity carries out a wrongful act that causes injuries or harm to another party. Under tort law, the injured party can pursue remedies for the harm inflicted upon them. Let’s explore the situations that tort law covers with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.

Tort law deals with situations where you have a defendant, someone who has wronged another, and a plaintiff, someone who is wronged. The types of wrongs that are most common in torts are situations where you have car accidents, truck accidents, slips, and falls in a grocery store on liquid the manager knew or should have known about.

  • Video Transcript - What Kinds of Situations Does Tort Law Deal With?

    Video Transcript - What Kinds of Situations Does Tort Law Deal With?

    "0:00 what kinds of situations does tort law

    0:02 deal with tort law deals with situations

    0:05 where you have a defendant someone who

    0:09 has wronged another and a plaintiff

    0:11 someone who was wronged the types of

    0:13 wrongs that are most common in torts are

    0:16 situations where you have car accidents

    0:18 truck accidents slip and falls at a

    0:21 grocery store and liquid the manager

    0:23 knew or should have known about some

    0:26 situations include intentional torts

    0:29 such as assault and battery where

    0:30 someone’s punched but the most common

    0:33 are just ordinary negligence claims

    0:35 where someone simply wasn’t paying

    0:37 attention and abiding by their social

    0:40 duty to act reasonably. [Music]"

Some situations include intentional torts, such as assault and battery, where someone is punched. But the most common are just ordinary negligence claims where someone wasn’t paying attention and abiding by their social duty to act reasonably.

Types of Tort

There are three types of torts: negligent, intentional, and strict liability. It is important to note that tort does not deal with contractual disputes as that falls under contract law.

So, what kinds of situations does tort law deal with?

Negligent Torts

The most common type of tort is negligence, which refers to wrongful conduct carried out by a person arising out of their negligence. Negligence occurs when an individual or an entity fails to take reasonable care in their actions, resulting in injuries or harm to another.

In legal jargon, negligence is when one party breaches their legal duty of care to another party, causing damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.

The elements of a negligence claim include:

  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Causation
  • Damages.

The injured party can pursue monetary compensation against the driver or insurance company. These may include economic and non-economic damages, but the court may also award punitive damages in rare cases involving gross negligence.

Some examples of negligence tort claims include:

Negligence tort case: Liebeck v. McDonald’s

Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman, suffered severe injuries after she purchased a hot coffee from McDonald’s and spilled it on her lap. She required multiple skin grafting surgeries and extended hospitalizations. Liebeck offered to settle the suit for a small amount, but McDonald’s denied it, forcing her to file a lawsuit.

During discovery, the plaintiff’s attorneys found that McDonald’s received hundreds of complaints in the past for serving their coffee extremely hot. Still, they were negligent and did not take any action. McDonald’s was serving their coffee 30 degrees hotter than other brands.

The court ruled in favor of Liebeck, awarding her compensatory damages of $160,000 and $460,000 in punitive damages.

Intentional Torts

An intentional tort arises when one party intentionally carries out a wrongful act knowing that their actions could cause harm or injuries to another party. Unlike negligence torts that arise out of negligence, intentional torts are intentional actions. In some cases, an intentional tort may also be a crime under state or federal laws, for which prosecutors hold the defendants accountable under criminal law in criminal courts.

Under intentional tort law, an injured party can pursue monetary compensation for the damages suffered due to the intentional wrongdoings of another. Besides compensation, the plaintiff may also seek an injunction or other remedies for the damages incurred.

Some examples of intentional tort cases include:

  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • False imprisonment
  • Trespass
  • Defamation.

Intentional Tort case: Vosburg v. Putney

During a class session, the defendant lightly hits the plaintiff’s shin. At first, there was no harm, but after a while, the plaintiff started screaming in pain and fell sick the next day.

After that, his condition worsened, with doctors noting discoloration and terrible pain. They performed two surgeries on the leg and later discovered that the bone was starting to break. Vosburg suffered injuries before the event on his knee and was already recovering when the defendant lightly hit his shin.

Vosburg sued Putney and won as the Supreme Court ruled that even though Putney did not intend to cause harm, but intended to kick. Under the Egg-shell Skull rule, Putney was responsible for the damages.

Strict Liability Torts

Unlike intentional torts, which are willful misconduct, strict liability torts hold individuals responsible for causing injuries resulting from hazardous activities or possessing dangerous animals.

Regardless of whether the defendant meant to cause physical harm or was negligent, they are strictly liable for certain activities, no matter the situation. Under strict liability tort law, injured victims must prove that they suffered injuries due to the defendant’s defective products.

Some examples of torts involving strict liability include animal attacks, abnormally dangerous activities, and defective products.

Strict liability tort case: Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company

In the 1970s, Ford made the Pinto, a car notorious for bursting into flames upon collision. A woman was driving a Ford Pinto when it stalled, causing another driver to rear-end the vehicle. The collision ruptured the gas tank and resulted in an explosion.

The woman died, but the passenger, Richard Grimshaw, survived and needed extensive surgeries for disfigurement. The Grimshaw and the woman’s family brought a civil action against Ford, and the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding them $2.56 million to the Grimshaw family, $559,680 for the surviving family members of the woman driver, and $3.5 million in punitive damages to punish Ford for knowingly endangering people’s lives.

Criticisms of Tort Law

Although the tort law system aims to ensure corrective justice, insurance companies, its procedures, and the legal costs all influence the overall outcome of the tort law system. Even after the plaintiff receives compensation for the damages suffered, the main question arises to what extent the fault is corrected.

Another major criticism of the tort law is that although the law aims to provide justice and deter others from committing similar wrongful acts, most tort cases settle outside of court, and even those that head to trial do not receive the publicity to make an impact.

The law aims to punish the defendant by compensating the victims, but at the end of the day, the real defendants are the insurance companies and not the at-fault parties since they are the ones paying for the damages.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law

To learn more about making your own video, contact us and to learn more about personal injury law generally, or to update or make corrections, contact attorney Michael Ehline. If you suffered injuries due to another person’s actions, 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.
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