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James E. Lee, II

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Tort Law - An Overview

Torts are civil wrongs recognized by law as grounds for a lawsuit.  These wrongs result in an injury or harm constituting the basis for a claim by the injured party.  While some torts are also crimes punishable with imprisonment, the primary aim of tort law is to provide relief for the damages incurred and deter others from committing the same harms.  The injured person may sue for an injunction to prevent the continuation of the tortuous conduct or for monetary damages.

Among the types of damages the injured party may recover are: loss of earnings capacity, pain and suffering, and reasonable medical expenses.  They include both present and future expected losses.

There are numerous specific torts including trespass, assault, battery, negligence, products liability, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Torts fall into three general categories: intentional torts (e.g., intentionally hitting a person); negligent torts (causing an accident by failing to obey traffic rules); and strict liability torts (e.g., liability for making and selling defective products.

Intentional torts are those wrongs which the defendant knew or should have known would occur through their actions or inactions.  Negligent torts occur when the defendant's actions were unreasonably unsafe.  Strict liability wrongs do not depend on the degree of carefulness by the defendant, but are established when a particular action causes damage.

Tort law is state law created through judges (common law) and by legislatures (statutory law). Many judges and states utilize the Restatement of Torts (2nd) (http://www.tomwbell.com/NetLaw/Ch05/R2ndTorts.html) as an influential guide.  The Restatement is a publication prepared by the American Law Institute (http://www.ali.org/) whose aim is to present an orderly statement of the general law of the United States.

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