Tort law is a huge and bewilderingly diverse subject, addressing an eclectic range of wrongdoings and the protection, through legal remedies, of private interests which are threatened or damaged by such wrongs. The vast scale of the subject, central to the still larger legal concept we call the “law of obligations” and of compensation, makes it impossible to address in its totality, and the course must be selective in the topics covered. This year, the topics selected will be outlined below.
In the first semester, we will deal firstly (and briefly) with the statutory compensation schemes which in the modern law have been introduced in the interests of expediency and efficiency to exclude tort law from areas of activity which it traditionally governed: areas such as motor vehicle accidents, workplace injuries, and injuries sustained as a result of another criminal behaviour. Then, entering on the law of torts property so called, we shall spend the rest of the first term on the great tort of negligence, a set of principles of relatively modern origin and growth which nowadays dominates the whole landscape of tort law, and in simple terms governs injuries to persons or property resulting from a failure to take appropriate care not to cause such harms.
In the second term we shall look very selectively at some of the so-called “nominate” torts, mostly dealing with intentional breaches of duties imposed on all citizens virtually from the cradle to the grave. But we shall also encounter torts of “strict liability”, which involve neither intentional nor careless conduct, nor any kind of moral “fault” at all.
Tort law consists of a collection of individual torts designed to protect particular private interests. It is most easily divided between conduct that is intentional and conduct that is negligent. After a brief introduction to the law of torts, the 1st term will focus on the intentional torts. Often referred to as the nominate (named) torts, these torts involve conduct that is wrongful when deliberately committed and damage (to person or property) is caused. The 1st term will conclude with an introduction to the law of negligence, in which injury results from a failure to take the necessary care not to cause harm (as opposed to intentionally causing the harm). The 2nd term will be devoted to studying the law of negligence. Tort law also encompasses torts of strict liability where there is no need to prove wrongful (intentional or negligent conduct). Strict liability will be briefly addressed if there is adequate time.
Tort law forms a large part of the law of “obligations and compensation”, being the part which is designed to protect citizens from breaches of those duties imposed by the law upon all of us virtually from the cradle to the grave, rather than being voluntarily undertaken. In modern times, it has to be understood in a broader context of statutory compensation schemes, which in some familiar situations may in the interests of expediency or efficiency exclude tort law from areas which it traditionally governed: areas such as motor vehicle accidents, workplace injuries and hurts afflicted on people as a result of another’s criminal behaviour. These statutory “compensation systems” will be considered before we enter upon the law of torts properly so called.