What Is a Tort?

The law has many terms that are old and sometimes archaic. But they stay with us because of America's common law tradition. One of those terms is tort. When you first hear the word it sounds more like an appetizer at a fancy restaurant than a fundamental area of law. But in fact, tort law is so important that every first year law student will study it as one of several basic courses on law. In addition to tort law, students will study the U.S. Constitution, property law, contracts, civil procedure, and criminal law. But what is a tort? Every state, including Florida, has tort laws.This article seeks to help you understand what is meant by a tort.

History of the Word

The word tort comes from Old French meaning a "wrong, injustice, or crime." In Latin the word tortum meant injustice. People have been able to sue one another based on tort law since the late 1500s. Historically, torts are divided into three different bodies of law – intentional torts, negligence torts, and strict liability torts. In all cases, the person committing the tort is known as the tortfeasor, and the damaged party the victim.

Intentional Torts

Intentional torts are based in the intentional acts of one person against another person. The principle intentional torts of the common law are:

  • Assault – intentionally putting another person in an imminent apprehension for their safety.
  • Battery – intentionally harming another with harmful or offensive (physical) contact.
  • False Imprisonment – intentionally imprisoning another without legal justification.
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – intentionally inflicting emotional distress on another by acting outrageously.
  • Trespass – using another's property, land or personal, without permission.
  • Fraud – intentionally lying to another causing the victim to act on the lie and be harmed as a result.
  • Defamation/Slander – saying or writing something false about another, causing harm to that person's reputation or ability to make money.
  • Conversion – taking another's property without permission and keeping it.

Negligence Torts

When it comes to negligence torts, intent of the tortfeasor does not matter. The goal of negligence is to compensate victims of accidents, injuries, and other unfortunate events. Historically, negligence is made up of four elements:

  • Duty – the duty each of us owes to everyone else to act reasonably.
  • Breach – when actions breach that duty, whether intentionally or not.
  • Causation – when the breach of duty is the proximate and actual cause of harm to another.
  • Harm – the actual harm or monetary damages that someone else suffers as a result of someone else's negligence.

Strict Liability Torts

Under the historical definition of strict liability torts, it does not matter whether the tortfeasor acts intentionally, or if they owe a duty. Historically, strict liability torts existed to protect the public from highly dangerous activities, like dynamite explosions and dangerous chemical spills, and from dangerous products.

Florida Tort Law

Florida law recognizes each of these torts in one way or another. The Pittman Firm is here to help victims of every type of tort, so that victims are duly compensated for the injuries inflicted by others.

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