3 In Civil, when a person commits a wrong, it’s called a TORT The harmed person is the PLAINTIFFThe Plaintiff seeks judgment against the DEFENDANT (wrongdoer)A guilty defendant in tort/civil law doesn’t go to jail, they have to pay DAMAGES – money to compensate for the wrong they did
4 The Idea of Liability Tort law deals with basic questions Who should be responsible or LIABLE for harm caused by human activitiesHow much should the responsible person have to payAlmost any activity cam be a source of harm and therefore of tort liabilityDriving a carOperating a businessSpeakingWritingUsing property
5 Failure to exercise reasonable care may result in legal LIABILITY. Tort law provides the injured party with a REMEDY – something to make up for what was lostFailure to exercise reasonable care may result in legal LIABILITY.The person harmed may sue the person who acted unreasonably for damagesLess tangible costs – such as emotional suffering – may also be a cost of an injury
6 Legal responsibility for harm – LIABILITY - is not the same as moral responsibility A person may be morally at fault for harming someone but not civilly liable for the injuries.You lie to a friend about the correct time, causing her to miss a job interview and not get a jobThe lie is morally wrong and would cause harm, but would not result in civil liability
7 The agreement reached in tort law is called a settlement Settlements are much more common that trials in tort lawApproximately 90% of tort cases filed in court are settled without a trial
8 The Idea of Torts: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Tort law is generally based on COMMON LAWThis is law made by judges through court decisionsThese decisions become precedents used to decide future casesTort law evolved over time, reflecting changes in both technology and social values
9 Tort law continues to balance usefulness against harm How safe must a drug be before the manufacturer is not considered legally responsible if the drug injures someone?If a drug is discovered that saves the lives of many cancer patients but causes the deaths of some, should the drug manufacturer be liable for the deaths?Tort law tries to preserve individual choiceLabels on the dangers of smoking on cigarette packagesTort cases often involve a clash of values and interests
10 Types of TortsAn INTENTIONAL WRONG occurs when a person acts with the intent of injuring a person, his or her property, or bothThe most common tort is NEGLIGENCE – an unintentional tortOccurs when a person’s failure to use reasonable care causes harm
11 Three groups of people face strict liability STRICT LIABILITY applies when the defendant is engaged in an activity so dangerous that there is a serious risk of harm even if he or she acts with utmost careThree groups of people face strict liabilityOwners of dangerous animalsPeople who engage in highly dangerous activitiesManufacturers and sellers of defective consumer products
12 Taking Your Case to Court Tort law is Civil LawWho can be sued?Almost anyoneIndividualsGroups of peopleOrganizationsBusinessesGovernmentPlaintiffs typically look for those with “deep pockets” to sue – people who can afford to pay the damages
13 Children commit torts and may be sued for damages People can sue employers for torts committed by employees in the course of their employmentThe reason is that the employer is in a better position than the employee to handle the cost of the suit.Children commit torts and may be sued for damagesTo recover damages from a minorOne has to prove the child acted unreasonable for a person of that age and experienceBecause most children do not have very ‘deep pockets’, plaintiffs also sue the child’s parents
14 Certain defendants are immune from some kinds of tort suits Suits within families and against the governmentParents and children cannot sue each otherThe President, Federal Judges, and Members of Congress are totally immune from tort liability for acts carried out within the scope of their dutiesJones v Clinton, 1997 – the Supreme Court ruled a sitting President can be sued for stuff he may have done BEFORE he was president
15 The FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT has made it so the federal gov’t can be held liable in civil actions for negligent acts or omissions by gov’t employeesCLASS ACTION SUIT is where many people have been injured/wronged and they band together to sue the wrongdoer
16 Some attorneys for plaintiffs will work for a CONTINGENCY FEE – meaning they will only be paid fi they win the case – usually 30-40% of the winnings.
17 InsuranceLiability insurance is purchased by many Americans in various forms all the timeThe people pay insurance premiums ‘just in case’ they need the insurance to cover something they’ve doneMalpractice – a form of liability insurance purchased by doctors, lawyers, and other professionals
18 Homeowners and Renters insurance covers loss and damage to property Manufacturers liability is to cover injuries that may be caused by faulty productsHomeowners and Renters insurance covers loss and damage to propertyAuto insurance is the most important liability insurance purchasedCovers damage you do to people and propertyLimits on how much a person can collectA limit on injuries per personA limit on total injuries to all people involved in the accidentA limit on property damage per accident
19 Medical coverage pays for your own medical expenses resulting from accidents involving your car or the one you’re drivingAlso pays for passengers in your car regardless of faultCollision coverage pays for damage to your own car, even if the accident was your faultCan lower the payments each month by getting a higher deductible – what you must pay before the insurance money kicks inComprehensive coverage protects you against damage or loss to your car from causes other than collisionsUninsured Motorist coverage protects you from other drivers who do not have insurance or do not have enough insuranceNo-Fault insurance pays up to a certain amount for injuries your receive in an accident regardless of who’s fault the accident is
20 Workers’ Compensation Every state has a workers’ compensation system that automatically compensates employees who are injured on the jobEmployers make regular payments to the state or private companies to cover this if it happensWorkers can usually recover for their injuries even if they were negligentThe amount of money awarded for a specific injury is limited according to a schedule set up by the stateWorkers cannot usually recover additional damages from the employerWorkers’ compensation is the EXCLUSIVE REMEDY for on- the-job injuries
22 Types of Damages Intentionally – on purpose Compensatory Damages are reward for intentionally harming someone.These damages includeLost wagesPainSufferingMedical billsNominal Damages are rewarded as a token amount – symbolicallyNo harm was really caused, but the action was wrong.Punitive Damages are awarded to punish the defendant for malicious, willful or outrageous acts even if no real harm was done.
23 Torts that Injure Persons Battery is when a person intentionally causes a harmful or offensive contact with another person.Assault occurs when a person intentionally puts someone in fear of an immediate harmful or offensive actInfliction of Mental Distress is kind of a new tort and it’s when someone intentionally uses words or actions that are meant to cause someone fright, extreme anxiety, or mental distress.Actual physical injury is NOT requiredFalse Imprisonment protects someone from being held against their will.Does not include arrest and jail
24 Torts Related to Defamation Two kinds of defamationSlander is when oral statements harm someone’s reputationLibel is written defamation
25 Torts that Harm Property Tort law protects your property in two waysIt protects against interference with the owner’s exclusive use of the propertyIt protects against the property’s being taken or damagedThree kinds of property covered by tort lawReal Property – land and the items attached to itPersonal Property – property that can be movedIntellectual Property – the ownership interest in creations of a person’s mind.Real Property Offenses includeTrespassNuisanceInjunctions can stop the real property offenses
26 Personal Property offenses include Attractive nuisance – a law that allows for something to get in the way temporarily until the overall problem can be fixed.Example is fencing in a construction site until the job is completed.Personal Property offenses includeConversion – someone exercises control over the personal property of another personReasonable Force can be used to protect personal propertyWhat reasonable force is depends on the circumstances surrounding the crimeIn general, deadly force cannot be used to protect personal property
27 Intellectual Property is creations of the mind and includes: Patents which are granted to people who invent things.The invention must be novel (new) for a patent to be issuedGrants the inventor a monopoly on the product for 20 yearsCopyrights which are granted to authors and composersWorks do NOT have to be novel/new to receive a copyright.Works only need to show some slight spark of creativityExceptions to the exclusive rights of a copyright holder are:First Sale means that once the copyright owner sells a coy of their work, the lawful owner of the particular copy can make further copies and sell them
28 Defenses to Intentional Torts Consent is the most common defenseThe plaintiff consented to the act so they gave up the right to sue laterPrivilege justifies conduct that would otherwise be a tort because the defendant’s interests or those of the public require it and because public policy is best served by permitting such behaviorLegal authority is a privilege that can be used to protect property and suchSelf-defense is the best known defense. Allows someone to come to the rescue of another person and to use the same amount of force the victim could have used to repel the attackerDefense of PropertyDeadly force is never allowed here
30 Elements of Negligence For a plaintiff to win a negligence action against the defendant, each of the following elements MUST be proven by a preponderance of evidence:Duty – the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiffBreach of Duty – the duty was breached (violated) by the defendant’s conductCausation – the defendant’s conduct caused the plaintiff’s harmDamages – the plaintiff suffered actual damages
31 Duty and BreachNegligence law is primarily concerned with compensating victims who are harmed by a wrongdoer’s action or inaction that breaches the standard of reasonable careThe Reasonable Person StandardEveryone has a duty toward everyone else in societyThe duty to act reasonablyThe law has developed an imaginary creature to help judge whether conduct is negligentThe reasonable person of ordinary prudence or carefulnessThe reasonable person considersHow LIKELY a certain harm is to occurHow SERIOUS the harm would beThe BURDEN involved in avoiding the harmThe likelihood and seriousness of the harm are balanced against the burden of avoiding the harmThe law assumes that reasonable people do not break the law!
32 CausationWhen considering the element of causation, two separate issues are looked atCAUSE IN FACT – if the harm would not have occurred without the wrongful act, the act is the cause in factPROXIMATE CAUSE – there must be a close connection between the wrongful act and the harm causedThe harm caused must have been a foreseeable result of the act or acts
33 DamagesThe plaintiff should be restored to his or her pre-injury conditionThe court allows for the recovery ofHospital billsLost wagesDamage to propertyReduced future earningsOther economic harmThe court may allow for the recovery ofPain and sufferingMental distressPermanent physical losses
34 Defenses To Negligence Suits Contributory Negligence is a traditional legal defenseIf it can be proven that the plaintiff contributed toward the harm suffered, then the defendant does not have to pay damages.Usually used when both parties are at faultSome states no longer consider contributory negligenceComparative Negligence divides the loss according to the degree to which each person is at fault.This sometimes involves counterclaims – both parties filing suits against each otherAssumption of the Risk is when a person voluntarily encounters a known danger and decides to accept the risk of that danger
36 Dangerous ActivitiesStrict Liability means that the defendant is liable to the plaintiff regardless of fault.Strict liability applied to activities that are unreasonable dangerous.Activities are considered unreasonably dangerous when they involve a risk of harm that cannot be eliminated even by reasonable careThey may be socially useful or necessary – like demolition workCompanies conducting dangerous activities know that they are strictly liable so they build the cost into the price they charge for the work.Toxic Torts have been developed to address harm resulting from the use of toxic chemicals and other hazardous materials
37 AnimalsThe traditionally holds owners responsible for any harm caused by their untamed animals.The situation is different for household petsThe owner of the pet is strictly liable only if he knew or should have known that the pet was dangerous or destructive“Every dog is entitled to one free bite” but the owner may be liable for that first bite!Leash laws also make the owner responsible for the pet’s behavior.
38 Defective ProductsSome attorneys specialize in product liability law – representing consumers who have suffered from product- related injuries.U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was created in 1972 to deal with the issue of product safety.Strict liability on companies is meant to ‘force’ them to develop safe productsCourts have been reluctant to apply strict liability to unavoidably unsafe products whose benefits outweigh the dangersvaccines
39 Defenses to Strict Liability The best defense is to argue that the plaintiff should have to prove negligence in a particular case and that sound public policy does not require the use of a strict liability standard.It’s harder for a plaintiff to win a negligence suit because there must be proof of the defendant’s faultStrict Liability Plaintiffs have to prove BOTHCausationDamagesSo, the defense can show that there is no causation or there are not damagesAnother defense for product manufacturers is that theConsumer misused the productConsumer ignored clear safety warnings.
41 Critics of our current tort law claim As a matter of public policy (laws) the tort law system should serve toCompensate harmed people in a prompt and efficient wayFairly allocate benefits to victims and costs to wrongdoersDeter risky conductCritics of our current tort law claimThe amount of money awarded to plaintiffs is sometimes unreasonably highGoing to court has become much too expensive with lawyers getting too much of the money awardedCivil courts take too long to resolve disputesTort law is so complicated that it can be difficult to determine who is at faultThe injured party should sometimes receive compensation for a loss, regardless of whether the other party was at fault
42 Tort ReformThe main goal of tort reform is to change the process of settling claimsNo-Fault insurance laws were developed to eliminate the need for law suits after auto accidentsMediation programs may allow parties to resolve conflicts without going to courtMedical MalpracticeAs the size of awards increased the insurance premiums paid by doctors rose.Part of this increase is passed along to patientsThis means higher payments for careSome people cannot afford to pay for the more expensive careSometimes this means higher health insurance premiumsSome people cannot afford health insuranceAs the price of medical malpractice insurance rose, some doctors have had to quit practicing because they can’t afford the insurance
43 The Cost of SafetyEither by preventing injuries by paying safety costs, or by treating injuries by paying for damages, costs are spread to consumers through higher prices at the cash register.Tort law generally requires that a reasonable amount of money be spent on safetyIf the benefits of adding the safety precaution outweigh they it would be reasonable to require this safety precaution and vice versa
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