Tort law

Tort law refers to the law of civil wrongs, as distinguished from criminal wrongs. A tort is a negligent or intentional civil wrong not arising out of a contractual breach. Actions taken for torts are civil actions brought by one individual against another, as distinguished from criminal prosecutions brought by the police in the name of the State.

You can find out more about how torts are pursued by visiting our civil litigation pages.

Causes of Action

Tort law incorporates various causes of action. Where a claim is established under tort law the courts can award remedies, including damages and injunctions.

  • The main, and most common, tort is negligence. The law says that in certain relationships in society, a person will hold a duty of care towards another. When they fail to reasonably exercise that duty of care that person has been negligent.
  • The tort of nuisance occurs when a person interferes with another person’s use and quiet enjoyment of their land
  • The tort of defamation occurs when a person damages someone’s reputation by making an untrue statement to a third party. It is divided into libel for written publications and slander for transitory statements
  • Statutory torts arise from duties imposed by legislation, such as product liability and occupiers’ liability
  • Intentional torts often overlap with the criminal law. They are any intentional acts that are reasonably foreseeable to cause harm to an individual, such as assault, battery, false imprisonment, and fraud
  • Property torts involve any intentional interference with the property rights of the claimant, including trespass  and conversion. The tort of trespass occurs where a person unlawfully intrudes upon or interferes with another’s person or property

There is also a category of economic torts which protect people from interference with their trade or business. This includes the doctrine of restraint of trade and the tort of misrepresentation; however, these have been largely subsumed by statute and contract law.

Enforcement

You can learn about this in more detail on our suing and the law pages.

Torts are a civil matter, which means that it is up to the individual victim to enforce the law. You can do this by bringing a lawsuit in the County Courts or the High Court, however, today it is generally accepted that this should be the last resort.

The vast majority of cases can be resolved by informing the tortfeasor, the person who has committed the tort, that there is potentially a viable claim against them. In most cases, this will convince them to settle the case.

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