Liabilities under Law of Torts

Surely every injury imports a damage, though it does not cost the party one farthing, and it is impossible to prove the contrary; for the damage is not merely pecuniary, but an injury imports a damage when a man is hereby hindered of his rights.


-Holt, C.J., Ashby V White


Torts are more often sorted or categorized as common laws, a civil wrong involving a breach of duty or violation of statutes other than a breach of contract. Tort’s word has derived from the Latin word “Latin Tortum,” meaning Twisted, wrong, or crooked. There will be an intentional infliction or causing of injuries, negligence, emotional distress, financial losses, or violation of any other personal rights & privacies of a person, which results in legal liability. The person who inflicts such harm or injury to a person is called a Tortfeasor, and such unlawful acts are called a Tortious act. The claimants afflicted by such loss or liability can claim in action seeking a private civil remedy, usually money damages. The person who commits a tortious act is not termed as guilty but liable.


Torts can be compared to criminal laws, which deal with criminal wrongs that are punishable by the state. For Example, Assault & Battery, Assault (a physical attack), and Battery (an unlawful physical contact) both outcome in a civil lawsuit and criminal prosecution in countries where the civil & criminal legal systems are separated. Tort laws differ from contract laws as well. i.e., it provides civil remedies after a breach of duty, but on the contrary, the contractual obligation is that one party agrees to the other. Such contractual commitments are fundamental in both tort & criminal law; hence such duties are inflicted anyway whether the parties have a contract or not.


The Tortfeasor who incurs tort liability is bound to reimburse the victim for all the injuries they have caused. The Tortfeasor will be accountable for the harm inflicted on the claimant, and the claimant is bound to get an Award of damages. When it comes to the liability, the Tortfeasor liabilities may range indifference of the factors involved. If the Tortfeasor inflicts injuries or harm to several persons, then the Tortfeasor will be held liable to all those victims. If some people attack as a group on one victim, then all the tortfeasors will be responsible. The contribution of each Tortfeasor’s liability varies from the degree of the injury they inflicted upon the victim. In some instances, victims are held liable along with the Tortfeasor if his action contributed an injury to him. The liabilities under tort laws are expounded as follows:


I. Joint Liability

When several tortfeasors are held liable for a tortious act, they are termed as Joint tortfeasors. It means for a single plaintiff’s injury; there will be more than one defendant who shares equal responsibility of liability. The number of damages that have to be paid by each joint Tortfeasor is calculated by the degree of liability (degree of harm they inflicted upon the victim) and the rules and provisions specific to that jurisdiction. If one defendant paid the entire amount to the plaintiff, then the plaintiff or the claimant could not sue the other defendants because the claimant won’t be entitled to the compensation twice. For example, when it comes to a business partnership, joint liability includes an equal responsibility between all the partners for damages, injuries, or debts. On the flip side, if the court finds any defects or errors in the lawsuit, all the compensation payments will be the partners’ responsibility.


II. Vicarious Liability

In a Vicarious Liability, superiors are held liable for any tortious acts of negligence or any violence of statutes of their subordinates. This liability is also called Employer’s liability. Under ‘Respondeat superior’ Doctrine, it asserts that any tortious act committed by the employers negligently in the course of their employment is reviewed as the Employer’s liability. An employer will be held responsible for his employee’s tortious liability in the course of his employment. For example: When an employee operates a piece of equipment negligently in the course of his work which leads to any personal injury or any harm, the Employer will be held responsible for the employee’s actions and are bound to compensate the victim for the damages.


III. Liability for Third Person

In some instances, third-party interactions may lead to liabilities. From the business owners’ perspective, any party that can claim over the insurance formed between the first and second party is usually called third-party liability insurance. In business, insurance, any customer, client, or supplier could be the person who comes in contact with your business, or the premises could claim damages if there is any personal harm or damage to the company’s properties. Another example: – if a worker walking beside the road and a drunk truck driver hit the worker negligently. The worker is injured and could claim money from the worker’s compensation fund. Simultaneously, the worker could sue the truck driver and the truck’s company for his blatantly negligent act, which had caused mental suffering and emotional distress or punitive damages. The claimant could claim compensatory damages and punitive damages in cases of third-party liability.


IV. Victim Liability

On occasions, the victim himself contributes to the personal injury, negligence, or any tortious act resulting in damages, which is a contributory negligence or plaintiff’s liability. The plaintiff or the victim should lay hold of some reasonable care. If negligence from the victim himself without such reasonable care conduct to the damages, then the victim himself contributes to his injuries. At such times the Award for damages is being reduced or sometimes precluded utterly. For example: – if the rash and negligent driving of the victim himself lead to an accident and personal injury, then the Award for damages caused to him could be barred or partially precluded by the court because of the victim’s rash and negligent driving, which is a violation of traffic rules. Hence the victim’s contribution towards his liability could result in such contributory negligence.


V. Parent Liability

Tortious acts of negligence or any wrongful act of a child causing any personal harm or injury to other persons can hold their parents liable for such actions. Kallenberg v. Long (1924) 68 Cal.APP. 317 – A child was acting within the course & scope of a relationship built on agency theory; hence the parents were held liable for the act committed by their child. The parents are accorded as liable for the tortious actions committed by the minor child. The Doctrine of ‘Respondeat Superior’ also revolves around this liability. In some instances, the parents are considered liable for the negligence alongside the parent’s conduct to the minor’s tort. Another elementary example of such liability is that a parent asks their child to harm someone or pick something from the grocery store without the owner’s permission. In such a tortious act of a child, the parents are held liable.


VI. Strict Liability

Strict liability is the liability in which there will be no tortious intention or negligence to inflict any injury or personal harm to others. Still, anyhow, the act led to the violation of any statute or any protected rights. In such situations, the party is liable to prove that the defendant is responsible for the act and the party had no faults (negligence or tortious intention). An elementary example of strict liability is the leaking of poisonous gas (Bhopal gas tragedy). If a zoo keeps tigers and lions, the zookeeper could be held liable if the big cats escaped. The possession of hazardous products or chemicals which could cause foreseeable damage contributes to strict liability. The fostering of dangerous wild animals and all bizarre or anomalous actions also contribute to strict liability and violate statutes. The defendant who sells defective products causing any harm or injury to the customers also accords with strict liability.


Award of Damages and Types

Based on the damages awarded for the claimants under the tortious liability, the Award of injuries can be branched mainly in two, termed as compensatory (actual) damages & punitive damages. Compensatory damages have again diverged into special & general damages. Special damages are considered an economic loss, loss of earnings, property damage, and medical expenses. In contrast, general damages are considered non-economic, emotional distress, suffering reckless pain, etc. Punitive damages are considered to be exceptional cases. Punitive is the damages bound by the defendant to pay when heshe acted audaciously negligent or malicious. From the above, no matter how clear, a tort can often be compound since the liabilities could vary from state of affairs. Thus, if someone is involved in any tortious liability, a lawyer will be the person who could differentiate each party’s liabilities mixed up with such affairs.