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What types of torts exist?
There are three broad categories of tort, as follows:
• Intentional Torts – Intentional torts, as the name implies, are characterized by the mental intent of the tortfeasor. The tortfeasor undertakes an activity with either the desire to bring about an intended result or with the knowledge that the result is “substantially certain”. When the action results in an identifiable harm or loss to a third party, it constitutes an intentional tort.
⁃ Example: If one person physically batters another person by punching him in the face. This is an intentional tort because the individual intended her actions and the probable result.
• Negligence – Negligence is conduct by an individual that drops below a reasonable standard of care and causes harm to another person. Succinctly, an individual has a duty to act reasonably when interacting with others. When that individual fails to act reasonably and thereby causes harm to others, that individual is negligent.
⁃ Example: A person who is driving too quickly, following too closely, or not paying close attention may be negligent if her careless behavior results in an automobile accident.
• Strict Liability – Strict liability subjects an individual to liability for activity that causes harm to another without regard for her intent or the standard of care she shows in carrying out that activity. That is, simply undertaking the activity that results in harm is sufficient to make the actor liable. The injured party is not required to demonstrate the actor’s intent or the level of care they exercised in undertaking the activity.
⁃ Example: A person who deals in very hazardous material, has a vicious or wild animal, or takes part in the production or sale of an unreasonably dangerous product may be liable if her activity causes injury to someone. It does not matter that the person did not intend to harm anyone or that the person took extra precautions to not harm anyone. These activities alone are enough to subject the person to liability.
• Discussion: Why do you think that torts are generally categorized based upon the mental state of the tortfeasor? Should the mental state of the tortfeasor affect the severity of the potential liability for the tort? Why or why not? How should the intent of the tortfeasor be compared against the result of the tort when determining the liability of the tortfeasor?
• Practice Question: Doug is speaking with his friend Annie about an unfortunate accident involving her pet dog. Her pit bull bit the mailman, apparently mistaking him for an intruder. The mailman is now suing Annie. Annie says that she is going to trial to contest her liability because her dog broke out of its cage and it wasn’t her fault. Animal bites are strict liability torts in Annie’s state. What does Annie need to know before going to trial?