What Is A Tort?

June 22, 2010

Have you noticed all the recent news stories about torts and tort reform?  Are these pastries really so controversial that people are calling for revisions to their recipes?

Old Custer County Courtroom
Image by jimmywayne via Flickr

No, not really. The dessert cakes are actually “tortes” (with an “e”) and cause little conflict in Kentucky.  A “tort,” in the legal sense, is a violation by one person or entity of a duty owed to another. In other words, it’s when someone owes you money or restitution because of a legal fault or responsibility. Torts can be very controversial and are constantly being reviewed and reformed.

Tort law covers civil wrongs (not criminal) and is found in most regional, state and national civil codes. Torts enable a person to take legal action when he or she suffers physical, legal or economic harm. If the suit is successful, the victim may be awarded monetary damages.

By the way, there were 698 tort cases filed in Kentucky Federal District Courts in 2009.

Tort law is divided into three general categories:

Negligence Torts

If your failure to practice “due diligence” harms another (say you hit a baseball through a window and injure the home owner), you’ve been negligent and may be sued for damages. Medical malpractice is an example of the professional negligence covered under this category.

Intentional Torts

These torts address deliberate attempts to harm, such as defamation, fraud, battery, false imprisonment, trespass, and interference with the economic operations of a company. Many of these offenses may also lead to criminal prosecutions.

Strict Liability Torts

These torts cover product liability, specifically the liability a manufacturer assumes when a customer is injured while properly using the company’s product.

Tort law also covers nuisances (such as noise pollution), but these torts can be difficult to prove since the definition of a “nuisance” is so subjective.

In order to secure a successful tort judgment, the plaintiff’s lawyers (those representing the person complaining) must demonstrate that the accused party committed the civil wrong, and that the plaintiff suffered as a result. Damages may be awarded by a judge or jury within the limits of the applicable laws.

Tort Law protects Kentucky citizens from intentional or unintentional harm caused by a wide variety of sources. In fact, if that rich, chocolate torte is causing you extreme emotional distress, you just might have a case.

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