Definition – Tort law is the set of rules regarding liability and compensation for personal injury, death, and property damage that one party causes to another
1.Deterrence and Accident Prevention
a. Accident law should reduce the level of accidents
b. Compensation system should be concerned with deterring unsafe conduct
c. Financial responsibility acts as a deterrent
2.Compensate Injured Victims – Make Person Whole Again
a. Present and future medical/rehabilitative care
b. Lost earnings and impairment of future earning
c. Pain and Suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and inability to maintain familial relationships
d. Restore injured party to original condition before the injury
3.Avoidance of Undue Burdens on Economic Activities
a. Especially productive ones
b. Society values entrepreneurial activities that benefit the individual, as well as society
c. Community bears burden of injuries
i. Overhead costs: insurance, products
4.Effective and Efficient Legal Process
a. Societal Standards to guide members to prevent accidents and avoid liability
b. Administratively efficient
c. MUST NOT BE UNDULY COSTLY OR TIME CONSUMING
a. An integral, overarching component in accident law
b. Must be perceived as fair by public
– 1st Goal
o Intended to improve the quality of human conduct
o Incentivize good conduct and penalize bad conduct
– 2nd Goal
o Compensate injured victims
Elements of Prima Facie Case
a. Was there a duty?
i. Legal obligation to exercise some level of care to avoid the risk of harming?
1. Foreseeability of risks
ii. Legal question, decided by judge
iii. General duty principles of reasonable care
1. Exceptions to general duty principle
b. Was that Duty breached/violated?
i. Did D’s conduct fall below the level of care owed to P?
ii. Foreseeable risks – was D’s conduct unreasonable in light of the circumstances?
iii. Fail to meet standard of care
c. Did violation cause injury?
i. Causation connection between D’s unreasonable conduct and P’s harm/injuries
ii. “but for” and “substantial factor” tests
1. Proximate cause – close enough to cause P’s injury to justify liability
2. Any intervening causes so unexpected they are intervening?
iii. Decided by jury – matter of fact
d. What are the damages?
i. Losses – current and future
ii. Attempt to return P to pre-injury position, usually $
e. What defenses are available?
P has burden of proof
Ø Burdon of production
Ø Burdon of persuasion – its version of facts are correct
– Victim, Injurer, and Society (with which to consider the objectives of Tort Law
o Society (potential victim) – concerned with being free of risks to bodily and emotional integrity, and risks to property and economic interests
§ Has interests in compensating vic
e medical expenses
2. Earnings Losses
a. Past earnings losses
b. Future earninings losses
c. Loss of household services – in the case of a housewife getting injured
3. Pain and Suffering (must be reasonably related to the accident)
a. Physical pain
b. Mental Suffering
c. Emotional harm
4. Loss of Consortium (Losses suffered by a partner)
a. Loss of injured person’s services
e. Sexual Relations
5. Life Expectancy
a. Computed through averages in mortality table
6. Work-life Expectancy
a. Appropriate consideration for future earnings losses
7. Reduction to Present Value
a. Economists assist in determining the value
8. Attorneys Fees
Plaintiff must plead and prove 5 elements for recovery:
a. D owes P a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the P from harm. (Is the D under any legal obligation for the benefit of the P?)
b. Legal Question – decided by judges
2. Breach of Duty:
a. In light of foreseeable risks, did D’s conduct or omission was unreasonable under the circumstances (this is the actual negligence and is measured according to the standard of care).
b. Decided by jury
3. Causation (Cause in Fact):
a. A causal connection exists between D’s unreasonable conduct and P’s harm.
i. But-for and substantial factor test