Tort law is the foundation for many civil actions, including car accident cases, product liability cases, pharmaceutical and medical device cases, and many other personal injury cases. Put simply, torts are personal injuries caused by the negligence, carelessness, or irresponsible actions of another person or entity. These can range from a nurse leaving a sponge inside a patient during surgery and an infection developing to companies ignoring clinical study results and marketing a defective medical device. Torts fall into three categories, which are usually included as counts against a defendant in a complaint or petition – intentional torts, negligent torts, and strict liability torts, with all three having different elements that must be proved for litigation to be successful. Lastly, tort actions have two parties – the plaintiff, who is the injured party, and the defendant, the tortfeasor, or the party who is alleged to have committed the act that injured the plaintiff.
Intentional torts rely on the allegation that the tortfeasor committed an act and knew, or should have known, that the act would result in injury. Common intentional torts include battery, assault, trespassing, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. For example, battery claims must show that the defendant intentionally committed non-consensual contact with the plaintiff causing harm. While different states have different definitions for what constitutes battery, these three elements must be met in order to bring an action for battery against a tortfeasor.
Negligent torts rely on the allegation that a tortfeasor failed to behave with a level of care that a reasonable person would have under the same circumstances. Broken down, the elements of negligence are 1) a duty for the tortfeasor to care for the plaintiff, 2) a breach of this duty, 3) injury to the plaintiff; and 4) breach of this duty caused the plaintiff’s injury. Separate from intentional torts, negligent torts do not require any kind of intent. Most important in negligence cases is proving there was a duty for the tortfeasor to care for the plaintiff. An easy example, which gives a logical foundation to apply to other cases, is drivers. All drivers have a duty to care for those around them and if they do not behave with a level of care that a reasonable person would be behind the wheel, they may be negligent if they cause injury to another driver, pedestrian, or piece of property. For example, if a driver runs a stop sign and T-bones another car, the driver was negligent. The driver had a duty to care for other drivers, the driver breached this duty by running a stop sign, even if unintentional, and injured the other driver.
Strict Liability Torts
Strict liability torts hold tortfeasors liable for injuries resulting from their actions or products, without proof of negligence or intent. Put simply, even if necessary precautions and safety requirements are followed, participating in activities, development of products, or marketing and sale of products that are foreseeably harmful to someone, puts the manufacturer, distributor, or owner at risk for an action against them under strict liability if anyone is harmed. To prove a strict liability claim, the plaintiff must show that all elements are met, including 1) an unreasonably dangerous activity, such as the development of a defective product or confinement of dangerous animals in a zoo, 2) an injury to the plaintiff; and 3) evidence that the unreasonably dangerous act resulted in the plaintiff’s injury. For example, a medical device company manufactures a new joint replacement out of materials that are known to create defective products. The company completes standard clinical testing and markets the product for sale. It is found that patients implanted with this product suffer injuries related to the product and that further testing by the company would have shown this is a defective product as it is unreasonably dangerous. While the company did not intend to make a product that was defective and successfully completed clinical testing required by industry-standard, the end result is a product that causes harm and the company can be held liable under strict liability.
In determining the proper type of tort to prosecute a case under, expert attorneys in the field of personal injury must be employed. The personal injury attorneys at The Simon Law Firm, P.C. are prepared to review all pertinent case facts to determine the proper tort to plead when filing a case. With over 20 years of experience with intentional torts, negligent torts, and strict liability torts, the personal injury attorneys at The Simon Law Firm, P.C. are ready to investigate and litigate cases to bring justice to those harmed by people, entities, and companies that disregard the law.