The area of tort law provides a person who has been harmed as the result of the wrongful acts of others the opportunity to bring a civil action for the harm or suffering caused. The person who has been injured or sustains pecuniary damages as the result of the wrongful act of another is referred to as the plaintiff, and the person causing the harm or damage is identified as the defendant or tortfeasor.
Three components must be satisfied in order for a tort action to exist:
The defendant had a legal duty to act in a given way toward the plaintiff.
The defendant breached that duty directed to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff suffered injury or harm as a direct result of the defendant’s wrongful act.
A tort action is usually instituted by a plaintiff who is most often a person or an entity such as a business against a defendant who is a person and/or a given entity such as a corporation for the wrongful act caused.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON TORT LAW
The origins of tort law are difficult to determine, and it has been suggested that tort law was poorly defined in the beginning.1
The underlying principles of tort law appear to have evolved from an examination of one’s moral and civil obligations to society. Such examination is used to determine if one wronged another, and if so, what degree of harm or damage was done. However, the concept of torts was to be different from criminal action. A criminal breaks man-made laws, and a tortfeasor (wrongdoer) commits acts that violate what is generally acceptable to society. And if one caused sufficient damage, injury, or harm to another, his or her responsibility usually involved monetary compensation to the aggrieved party.
As long ago as the seventeenth century, it appeared that great concern was given to the unfortunate soul who was wronged. The English case of Lambert v. Bessey stated, “The law doth not so much regard the intent of the actor, as the loss and damage of the party suffering.”2 Thus, the wrongdoer became characterized as one who breached some civil duty owed to others and, as a result, would have to compensate the injured party a fair and equitable amount in order to make the injured party whole.
The word “tort” is derived from the Latin term “tortus,” meaning twisted or crooked. The word came to mean simply “wrong,” and then evolved to mean a “civil wrong.”3 By the twentieth century, tort law was established with specific areas of concern and defined legal boundaries so it would have its own unique character. It was intended not to infringe upon such legal areas as criminal actions, breach of contract matters, general property rights, government issues, and a host of other ...