Torts, Torts, and More Torts: A Guide to the Three Kinds of Torts

A Crash Course in Legal Wrongs
Apr 2, 2023


The world of law can sometimes seem like a dense, tangled web of rules and regulations, but fear not! We are here to help you navigate the legal labyrinth, one step at a time. Today, we'll untangle the ever-elusive torts. No, not the delicious dessert you might be thinking of - that would be tarts. We're talking about torts: a set of civil wrongs that can lead to legal liability. They come in three different flavors, just like ice cream, except without the fun and sprinkles: intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability. Are you ready to embark on a light-hearted journey through the fascinating land of tort law? Buckle up, and let's dive in!

I. Intentional Torts: "You Did That on Purpose!"

First up on our list of torts is the aptly named "intentional torts." These are instances where one person (the wrongdoer) intentionally causes harm to another person (the victim). It's like your older sibling poking you repeatedly during a long road trip, knowing full well it's going to drive you up the wall. However, in the legal world, the consequences are a bit more severe than an annoyed sibling (usually).

Some common examples of intentional torts include:

  1. Assault: This is when someone threatens or attempts to cause physical harm to another person, making them fear for their safety. It's like when your sibling pretends to throw something at you, but stops short, eliciting a flinch.
  2. Battery: This occurs when someone intentionally touches another person in a harmful or offensive manner, without their consent. It's the next step after assault, where your sibling actually throws the object and makes contact.
  3. False imprisonment: This is when someone intentionally restricts another person's freedom of movement without their consent. Imagine your sibling locking you in a closet against your will (not cool, big bro).
  4. Intentional infliction of emotional distress: This is when someone intentionally causes severe emotional distress to another person. Think of it as a prank gone horribly wrong, leaving the victim in tears.

To prove an intentional tort, the victim must demonstrate that the wrongdoer's actions were deliberate and meant to cause harm. While it's not always easy to prove intent, it's usually pretty clear when someone is up to no good. And in the realm of intentional torts, no good means potential legal liability.

For cases involving torts, visit LSD+ Briefs and brace yourself for a riveting read.

II. Negligence: "Oops, I Didn't Mean to Do That!"

If intentional torts are the older sibling poking you on purpose, negligence is like accidentally bumping into you while reaching for the remote. Negligence occurs when someone fails to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation, resulting in harm to another person. It's the "I didn't mean to" of the tort world.

To prove negligence, the victim must establish four key elements:

  1. Duty: The wrongdoer owed a duty of care to the victim. In simple terms, the wrongdoer had a responsibility not to harm the victim.
  2. Breach: The wrongdoer breached that duty of care by failing to act as a reasonable person would have in a similar situation.
  3. Causation: The wrongdoer's breach directly caused the victim's harm.
  4. Damages: The victim suffered actual harm or loss as a result of the wrongdoer's breach.

For example, let's say your neighbor decides to practice their juggling skills with chainsaws (which we don't recommend, by the way). In their enthusiasm, they accidentally toss one of the chainsaws over the fence, landing on your prize-winning roses. Your neighbor has breached their duty of care, and their negligence has caused your precious flowers' untimely demise. You may have a case for negligence, which could help you recover the cost of your rose replacement.

One thing to keep in mind is that accidents happen, but that doesn't mean everyone who makes a mistake is automatically liable for negligence. If the wrongdoer acted as a reasonable person would have under the circumstances, they may not be held responsible. So, if your neighbor accidentally crushes your roses while helping you move a heavy couch, they might be off the hook. It's the difference between a well-intentioned blunder and a careless disregard for the safety of others.

III. Strict Liability: "It's My Fault, Even If I Didn't Mean It"

The final flavor in our tort law ice cream parlor is strict liability. In this case, the wrongdoer is held responsible for the harm caused, even if they did everything reasonably possible to prevent it. It's the legal equivalent of, "It's not you, it's me."

Strict liability typically applies to situations involving ultra-hazardous activities, defective products, or dangerous animals. Here are a few examples:

  1. Ultra-hazardous activities: These are activities so inherently dangerous that the person engaging in them is held responsible for any harm that occurs, regardless of the precautions taken. Think of it like keeping a pet tiger. No matter how well you train it or how many safety measures you put in place, if it escapes and causes harm, you're on the hook.
  2. Defective products: This is when a manufacturer or seller is held liable for harm caused by a product with a defect, regardless of whether they were negligent in creating or distributing the product. Picture a company selling exploding smartphones. Even if they didn't know about the defect, they can still be held responsible for the damage caused.
  3. Dangerous animals: When an owner of a dangerous animal, such as a venomous snake, knows about the animal's dangerous propensities and the animal causes harm, the owner can be held strictly liable. It's like owning a snake with a history of biting; if it bites someone, you're responsible, even if you've taken precautions to keep it contained.

Strict liability might seem a bit harsh, but it exists to protect the public from activities or products that pose a significant risk. When people or companies engage in these activities, they must accept the potential consequences, even if they've done everything in their power to prevent harm.


And there you have it! The three kinds of torts - intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability - all wrapped up in a slightly humorous and easily digestible package. While we can't promise that understanding tort law will make you the life of the party, it might just give you the upper hand in a heated debate or help you recognize when you have a legal claim worth pursuing.

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cryptanon HLS '22 & LSD creator

Tech-focused creator of LSD.Law. I built LSD while applying to law school. I saw unequal access to knowledge and built LSD to level the playing field and help applicants make thoughtful, well-informed decisions in the application process.


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