Meaning definition & Nature of Tort law

Meaning definition & Nature of Tort law

Meaning of Tort- 

The term tort is the French equivalent of the English word ‘wrong’ and of the Roman law term ‘delict’. The word tort is derived from the Latin word tortum which means twisted or crooked or wrong and is in contrast to the word rectum which means straight.

Everyone is expected to behave in a straightforward manner and when one deviates from this straight path into crooked ways he has committed a tort. Hence tort is a conduct which is twisted or crooked and not straight.

As a technical term of English law, tort has acquired a special meaning as a species of civil injury or wrong. It was introduced into the English law by the Norman jurists.

Tort now means a breach of some duty independent of contract giving rise to a civil cause of action and for which compensation is recoverable.

In gist tort law protects certain interests of a person by awarding a sum of money, known as damages, for infringement of a protected interest or by issuing an injunction, which is a court order, to refrain the defendant from doing something.

Definition of Tort

Though numerous attempts have been made so far to define tort but an entirely satisfactory definition of tort law is still awaited. Still a tort in general terms may be defined as a civil wrong independent of contract for which the appropriate remedy is an action for unliquidated damages. Some other definitions for tort are given below:

Winfield and Jolowicz- Tortuous liability arises from the breach of a duty primarily fixed by law; this duty is towards persons generally and its breach is redressible by an action for unliquidated damages.

Salmond and Hueston- A tort is a civil wrong for which the remedy is a common action for unliquidated damages, and which is not exclusively the breach of a contract or the breach of a trust or other mere equitable obligation.

Sir Frederick Pollock- Every tort is an act or omission (not being merely the breach of a duty arising out of a personal relation, or undertaken by contract) which is related in one of the following ways to harm (including reference with an absolute right, whether there be measurable actual damage or not), suffered by a determinate person:-

a) It may be an act which, without lawful justification or excuse, is intended by the agent to cause harm and does cause the harm complained of.

b) It may be an act in itself contrary to law, or an omission of specific legal duty, which causes harm not intended by the person so acting or omitting.

c) It may be an act violation the absolute right (especially rights of possession or property), and treated as wrongful without regard to the actor’s intention or knowledge.

d) It may be an act or omission causing harm which the person so acting or omitting to act did not intend to cause, but might and should with due diligence have foreseen and prevented.

e) It may, in special cases, consist merely in not avoiding or preventing harm which the party was bound absolutely or within limits, to avoid or prevent.

Nature of Tort Law

An act or omission committed by the defendant who causes damage to the claimant gives rise to tort. The damage must be caused by the fault of the defendant and must be a kind of harm recognised as attracting legal liability.
This model can be represented:

Act (or omission) + causation + fault + protected interest + damage = liability.

This model can be illustrated by a motor accident, which is the most frequent occurrence leading to tortuous liability.

Example-A drives his car carelessly with the result that it mounts the pavement and hits B, a pedestrian, causing B personal injuries. The act is A driving the vehicle. This act has caused damage to B. The damage was as a result of A’s carelessness, i.e. his fault. The injury suffered by B, personal injury, is recognised by law as attracting liability. A will be liable to B in the tort of negligence and B will be able to recover damages.


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