Professor Koehler; Torts
Southern Illinois University School of Law
– Issues in everyday life. Complex and difficult subject
– A collection of named and relatively well-defined legal wrongs, when committed, generate a right/cause of action in the victim against the wrong doer.
– Civil, private law. (v. Criminal law = public law)
– Burden of Proof: Preponderance of the Evidence
Process by which tort claims are resolved:
(1) Formal adjudication
(a) State and Federal Trial Courts
(2) Appellate adjudication
Purpose of torts: Carrots and Sticks
(1) Instrumental Perspectives
(a) Create incentives for actors to act appropriately in the future
(2) Corrective Justice
(a) To achieve fairness for its own sake
Plaintiff can recover for: Damages
(1) Nominal Damages
(a) A token amount awarded simply to commemorate the plaintiff's vindication in court.
(2) Compensatory Damages
(a) To compensate the plaintiff for losses caused by the defendant's tortious conduct
(3) Punitive Damages
(a) non-economic losses
(i) Pain and suffering/mental upset: past, present, and future
(b) When Defendant's tortious conduct is especially outrageous (teach the defendant a lesson)
Statute of Repose
(a) no law suit > 6 years after original sale of product
Statute of Limitations
(a) no law suit after 2 years of realizing injury
– Physical Injury & Mental Injury
Judgment Not Withstanding Verdict
– Gatekeeper role performed by judge
– Given the facts, there is no reasonable, rational way a jury could have found verdict they found.
– Liability of an employer for the tortious conduct of an employee.
– Whether employer can face legal liability
– Under the law, corporations are “people,” too
– Such legal persons can only act through real people (employees and agents)
Employer liable if:
(1) Employee acting within scope of employment AND
(2) Employee acting (conduct) is intended to benefit, at least in part, the employer.
Eggshell Plaintiff Rule
– Take your victim as you find them
Ex: One punch kills victim. Can't impose same damages on all punches.
Each has elements, if elements are met, plaintiff has alleged prima facie case.
Requires defendant's intentional act cause harmful or offensive contact with plaintiff's person.
(a) Intent can mean the purpose of causing harm or
(b) With knowledge that harm is substantially certain to occur.
(i) engaging in conduct where harm is likely to occur
(c) Transferred intent possible
(i) Imposes liability on an actor, even for harm to an unforeseeable plaintiff.
(ii) Actual causation v. proximate causation
(iii) Mistaken intentional tortfeasors:
– What's important is the intent to make contact.
(d) Objective/Subjective Standard
(i) Objective: Compensate (past)
– Reasonable person
Sometimes determined by judges, sometimes jury
– Judged by an objective, “reasonableness” standard
– Olson: AIDS Dentist
– Answered “what is reasonable”?”
– Judge determined that plaintiff's alleged harm was not harmful or offensive as a matter of law. (Facts don't matter)
(ii) Subjective: Safer Society (future)
– Particular litigant
Ranson v. Kitner
– Wolf v. dog/ shot dog mistaking it for wolf
– Held liable
– Sometimes the law can be harsh to intentional acts
– Shooter intended to pull trigger, mistaken or not.
(2) to make contact with another
(a) physical contact not necessary
(i) Extension of their person: So long as there is contact with clothing or an object closely identified with the body.
Fisher v. Carrousel Motor Hotel
– Plate snatched in buffet line.
– First case we see Respondeat Superior
(3) that is harmful or offensive
(a) In the mind of the alleged tortfeasor or
(b) In the mind of the alleged victim
(c) objective/subjective (What is harmful or offensive?)
(d) Reasonableness standard (applied to intent)
Garratt v. Daily (pg. 9)
– 5 y/o pulled chair out from woman
– Woman broke hip
– Did Daily have intent? (To do harm?)
– No. Daily not liable.
– Trial court found he did not intend/ state of mind of child.
Most batteries include assault, assault does not
RULE: A trespass actionable may be committed by the continued presence on the land of a structure, chattel, or other thing which the actor or his predecessor in legal interest therein placed thereon.
(1) With the consent of the person then in possession of the land, if the actor fails to remove it after the consent has effectively been terminated. OR
(2) pursuant to a privilege conferred on the actor irrespective of the possessor's consent, if the actor fails to remove it after the privilege has been terminated, by the accomplishment of its purpose of otherwise.
VI.Trespass to Chattels and Conversion
Intentional interferences with personal property of others.
Difference = interference was minor (chattel) or serious (conversion)
(1) Trespass to chattel
(a) Minor interference of harm
(b) Only liable for the value of harm to the chattel
(c) Without some damage to the chattel, there is no cause of action for trespass to chattels.
(a) Serious interference of harm
(b) Can recover reduction in value or fair market place value of property
Book definition* Conversion is an intention exercise of dominion or control over a chattel which so seriously interferes with the right of another to control it that the actor may justly be required to pay the other the full value, the following factors ARE important:
(1) The extent and duration of the actor's exercise of dominion of control
(2) The actor's intent to assert a right in fact inconsistent with the other's right of control
(3) The actor's good faith
(4) The extent and duration of the resulting interference with the other's right to control
(5) The harm done to the chattel
(6) The inconvenience and expense caused to the other.