The law of tort covers a wide range of situations, including diverse claims as those of a passenger injured in a road accident, a patient injured by a negligent doctor, a citizen wrongfully arrested by the police, and a landowner whose land has been trespassed.
When a tort is committed, the law allows the victim to claim damages and other applicable reliefs.
A tort consists of some act or omissions done by the tort feasor (defendant) wherein, he has without a lawful excuse caused some harm to plaintiff.
Therefore, to constitute a tort, there must be:
- Wrongful act or omissions.
- It must result causing legal damage to another.
- It must give rise to legal remedy.
DAMNUM SINE INJURIA
Damnum means damage. Damage in the sense of loss of money, comfort, health, service or physical hurt or the like.
Injuria means Breach of a legal right i.e. infringement of a right conferred by law on the plaintiff.
The act or omission of the defendant may have caused damage to the claimant but the claimant may have no action as the interest affected may not be one that is protected by any law. In simple words, the legal maxim means causing damage without any legal wrong.
Abhi opens a fish & chip shop in the same street as Rohan’s fish & chip shop. Abhi reduces his prices with the intention of putting Rohan out of business. Abhi has committed no tort as losses caused by lawful business competition are not actionable in tort.
INJURIA SINE DAMNO
In cases where conduct is actionable even though no damage has been caused is known as Injuria Sine Damno.
The legal maxim means Breach of legal right without damage.
In other words, there is an injury without damage or loss caused. Meaning infringement of legal rights not resulting in damages but giving the right to sue, to the plaintiff as the infringement is an injury in law.
If Vijay walks across Kaustubh’s land without Kaustubh’s permission then Vijay will commit the tort of trespass to land, even though he causes no damage to the land.
The principle of strict liability was laid down in the famous case of Rylands v. Flethcher (1868)
It refers that if any person brings anything from outside and accumulates on his land, which if escaped may cause damage to his neighbours, he does so and is fully entitled to the consequences. He will be responsible for damage, however carefully he might have been and whatever precautions he might have taken to prevent the damage.
But, later, in the case of Read v. Lyons (1946) the following two conditions were necessary to apply this principle,
- Escape of something from the control of defendant, which is likely to do mischief.
- When defendant is making a non-natural use of land.
If either of these conditions is absent, the rule will not apply.
Exceptions to the rule of Strict Liability.
- Damage due to natural use of land.
- Act of God
- Statutory Authority
- Escape due to plaintiff’s own default
- Act of Third-party
- Consent of plaintiff.
When a person is held liable for the torts committed by another, it is called vicarious liability.
Most common examples of vicarious liability are :-
- Principal & Agent
- Master & Servant
BATTERY & ASSAULT
Any direct application of force to the person without his consent or lawful justification is a wrong of battery. To constitute a battery, two things are necessary:
- Use of force without the plaintiff’s consent AND
- Without any lawful justification.
Even though the force used is very minor and does not cause any harm, the wrong is committed.
Assault is any act of the defendant which directly causes the plaintiff, immediately to apprehend a contact with the person. Thus, when the defendant by his act creates an apprehension in the mind of the plaintiff that he going to commit battery against him, the tort of assault is committed.
To point a loaded gun at the plaintiff, or to shake fist under his nose, or to curse him in a threatening manner, or to aim a blow at him which is intercepted, or to surround him with a display of force is to assault him clearly, as the defendant by his act intends to commit battery is an assault.
The illegal confinement of one individual against his or her will by another individual in such a manner as to violate the confined individual’s right, to be free from restraint of movement.
False imprisonment is the unlawful restraint of a person against his will by someone without legal authority or justification.
Elements of False Imprisonment:
To prove a false imprisonment claim in a civil law suit, the following elements must be present:-
- There must have been a wilful detention;
- The detention must have been without consent; and
- The detention was unlawful.
Malicious prosecution is the tort of initiating a criminal prosecution or civil suit against another party with malice and without probable cause.
The following are the essential elements of this tort:
- There must have been a prosecution of the plaintiff by the defendant.
- There must have been want of reasonable and probable cause for that prosecution.
- The defendant must have acted maliciously (i.e. with an improper motive)
- The plaintiff must have suffered damages as a result of the prosecution
- The prosecution must have terminated in favor of the plaintiff.
Defamation is an attack on the reputation of a person. It means that something is said or done by a person which affects the reputation of another.
Defamation may be classified into two heads:-
It is a representation made in some permanent form.
Written words, pictures, caricatures, cinema films, effigy, statute and recorded words.
It is the publication of a defamatory statement in a transient form, statement of temporary nature such as spoken words or gestures.
Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code recognizes both libel and slander as an offence.
REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO THE PLAINTIFF.
Three types of judicial remedies are available to the plaintiff in an action for tort namely:
- Specific Restitution of Property.
Many times there is a confusion between crime and tort. However, both are not same in nature. There is some similarity between crime and tort.
A tort allows the victim, to obtain a remedy that serves their own purposes (e.g. by paying damages to a person injured in a car accident or by obtaining injunctive relief to stop a person from interfering in their business).
On the other hand, criminal actions are pursued not to obtain remedies to assist a person – although criminal courts often have the authority to grant such remedies.
Thus, law of torts is a branch of law which resembles most of the other branches in most aspects, but also has its essential unique characteristics.