Torts Practice Exam Outline
A. A tort is a civil wrong
B. Originally, you had to get a writ from the king in order to sue
1. This was some direct harm, like someone punching you in the face
2. Intentional torts come out of this writ
1. This lets you recover on something not so immediate
2. This is the root of modern negligence claims
C. Anonymous (1466) – Even if you don’t mean to hurt somebody, they can sue you if you do.
D. Weaver v. Ward (1616) – Unless the defendant is totally without fault, the plaintiff collects.
2) Intentional Interference With Person or Property
i. Garratt v. Dailey (1955) – If the defendant “knew with substantial certainty” that his actions would cause harmful contact, then the defendant is liable for battery.
ii. Ranson v. Kitner (1889) – A person is liable for damages caused by a mistake, even if it is made in good faith.
iii. McGuire v. Almy (1937) – Broadly speaking, insane people are liable: an insane person is as liable as a normal person when he does intentional damage to people or property.
iv. Talmage v. Smith (1894) – According to the doctrine of transferred intent, if the defendant intends to hit somebody, the defendant will be liable for hitting anybody.
i. Cole v. Turner (1704) – If you’re angry at someone and touch them in even the slightest way, that’s battery.
ii. Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965)
2. If the batterer acts intending to cause…the same stuff as before…and offensive contact directly or indirectly results, then you have battery.
3. But, if the act was done without intent, you’re not liable for battery just for offensive contact. It says you might be negligent or reckless, though.
4. If the intent was to cause harm or offense to a third person, and the person misses and hits somebody else…still battery!
iii. Fisher v. Carrousel Motor Hotel, Inc. (1967) – The basis of an action for battery is the “unpermitted and intentional invasion of the plaintiff’s person and not the actual harm done to the plaintiff’s body”.
i. I de S et ux. v. W de S (1348) – If you “with force and arms…make an assault” on someone, they are entitled to recover damages from you.
ii. Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Hill (1933)
1. An assault takes place when someone makes “an unlawful attempt to commit a battery”.
2. “There must be an intentional, unlawful, offer to touch the person of another” and that the other person must have “a well-founded fear of an imminent battery”.
3. The perpetrator must possess “the apparent present ability to effectuate the attempt”.
i. Big Town Nursing Home, Inc. v. Newman
1. False imprisonment occurs when one person directly restrains another person’s physical freedom without legal justification.
2. Punitive damages can be awarded if the defendant intentionally violates the rights of the plaintiff.
v. City of
iii. Hardy v. LaBelle’s Distributing Co. – In order to prove false imprisonment, the plaintiff must show he was restrained unlawfully and against his will.
v. Whittaker v. Sandford (1912) – The plaintiff must be restrained by the defendant physically and unlawfully in order for false imprisonment to lie.
i. State Rubbish Collectors Ass’n v. Siliznoff (1952)
1. The old rules state that the law will not protect individuals from invasions of their emotional and mental well-being.
2. However, a change in the law reflected in the Restatement of Torts that says that there may be an action for infliction of severe emotional distress.
v. Food Fair Stores of
iii. Harris v. Jones – An action for intentional infliction of mental distress must contain four elements:
1. intentional or reckless conduct
2. extreme and outrageous conduct
3. a causal connection between the conduct and the distress
4. distress that can be considered severe
1. The beating must be done for the purpose of causing the plaintiff mental distress, or
2. The defendants must possess substantial certainty that the beating will cause the plaintiff substantial distress.
i. Dougherty v. Stepp (1835) – Every unauthorized entry to someone else’s land is a trespass.
ii. Bradley v. American Smelting and Refining Co. (1985) – Even the slightest bit of harm, including “by the vibration of the soil or by the concussion of the air” constitutes trespass.
iii. Herrin v. Sutherland (1925) – The air space near the ground over your land is as much your property as the land itself.
i. Glidden v. Szybiak – Someone cannot be held liable for trespass to chattels unless some harm comes to the chattel.
ii. CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc. – Trespass to chattels occurs when the defendant intrudes upon the plaintiff’s property such that damage results.
i. Pearson v. Dodd - In order for conversion to occur, some property must be interfered with in a “complete or very substantial” way.
ii. What makes a particular interference with chattels into a conversion?
1. The “serious interference” test
a. How serious does the interference have to be? It must be serious enough that damages for the full market price of the chattel should be awarded.
2. Some other criteria for identifying a conversion include:
a. How long the actor had control of the chattel
b. How long the interference lasted
c. The actor’s good faith
d. How much harm was done to the chattel, and
e. How much inconvenience was caused to the other person.
3. Ways that a chattel may be converted:
a. Stealing it
b. Damaging it
c. Using it
d. Buying it from a thief
e. Selling it to somebody else
f. Delivering it to the wrong person
g. Refusing to return it
iii. Effect of good faith – If you deliver goods to the wrong person (like someone in disguise) or buy something from a thief, you may still be liable for conversion even if you acted in good faith.
iv. Necessity of demand
1. In most jurisdictions, conversion happens as soon as someone unlawfully takes possession of the chattel.
2. In a few jurisdictions, the owner of a chattel must demand their property back from the possessor and be rejected.
v. Return of chattel
1. If the possessor gives the chattel back to the owner, it doesn’t bar an action for conversion, but the damages will be mitigated.
2. The owner doesn’t have to accept the return of the goods, except that in some jurisdictions, if the conversion was innocent and the chattel wasn’t damaged, the owner must take back the goods and won’t have an action for conversion.
1. If something gets converted from yours to theirs, you’re due the full value of the property converted. How this is calculated can vary, but usually it’s done by market price.
2. Though the property may have special value to the owner, only market price may be recovered unless the defendant’s conduct is outrageous, in which case the plaintiff may be able to get damages for emotional harm.
vii. What May Be Converted
1. Conversion originated from trover, which applied to things that can be “lost and found”.
2. However, conversion has now been extended to apply to intangibles such as stock holdings.
viii. Who May Maintain the Action
1. Anyone who has the chattel when it’s converted can sue for conversion.
2. One converter can even recover from another.
3. Usually, the plaintiff can show some right to the converted good.
i. O’Brien v. Cunard S.S. Co. (1891) – If the plaintiff’s behavior indicated consent, then the defendant’s reasonable act was not tortious.
ii. Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals, Inc. – If there are rules in an organized activity to prevent the infliction of serious injuries, then the plaintiff cannot be construed to have given up his rights by participating.
iii. Mohr v. Williams (1905) – Any unlawful touching of the plaintiff constitutes battery unless it is necessary.
iv. De May v. Roberts (1881) – Consent is negated if obtained by deceit or fraud.
v. Hart v. Geysel (1930) – A plaintiff’s consent will be negated if the defendant’s conduct violated a statute that is supposed to protect the class of people to which the plaintiff belongs.
i. You have the privilege to defend yourself against a threatened battery.
ii. Retaliation is not allowed: once battery is no longer threatened, you no longer have the privilege of self-defense.
iii. You have the privilege to defend yourself when you reasonably believe you are threatened with battery, even if in fact you are not. Your mistake may protect you in this limited case.
iv. Language is not sufficient to justify self-defense.
v. The privilege of self-defense is limited to the use of force that is necessary or reasonably appears necessary to protect yourself.
vi. Self-defense carries over to transferred intent such that if you harm a third-party in self-defense, you’re not liable.
i. This privilege is similar to that of self-defense. Most cases involving defense of others relate to family members.
ii. A point of disagreement is whether reasonable mistake applies to defense of others as it does to self-defense.
1. Some courts say that the intervenor only gains the privilege in fact of the person he is defending.
2. Other courts say that reasonable mistake does not negate the privilege.
D. Defense of Property – Katko v. Briney – You do not have the privilege to use force that may cause death or serious injury against trespassers unless the trespass itself threatens death or serious injury.
i. Hodgeden v. Hubbard – Property owners have the right to recover chattel if it can be done “without unnecessary violence to the person, or without breach of the peace”.
ii. Bonkowski v. Arlan’s Department Store – A shopkeeper may “detain for reasonable investigation a person whom he reasonably believes to have taken a chattel unlawfully”.
i. Surocco v. Geary (1853) – The good of society overall provides a defense to taking away private rights.
ii. Vincent v. Lake Eric Transp. Co. (1910) – When a defendant “prudently and advisedly” avails itself of the plaintiff’s property to preserve his own property, the plaintiffs can receive compensation for their injury.
G. Authority of Law – If a defendant is authorized by law to do what he does, he is not liable for doing it.
H. Discipline – The necessity of orderly discipline gives persons who have control of others the privilege of exercising reasonable force and restraint upon them.
– Sindle v.