Torts and its general concept

Torts and its general concept

Tort law is basically a civil wrong which involves the wrong done on one person against another. It includes negligent behaviour towards any person or land, defamaing any person in order to harm his reputation and many more. Unlike any other law, it is difficult to define tort under any specific defination therefore in general terms it can be considered as legal wrong or tortious activity which gives rise to an entitlement to a remedy for the claim seeking to obtain a private civil remedy more specifically damages in monetary terms. It is different from Criminal law as criminal law deals with criminal wrongdoing that are punishable by the state and are also called intentional tort, like in a car accident truck driver hits a car because truck driver was not paying attention might be a tortof negligence or unintentional torts. Likewise, torts that are done on purpose for causing harm to another are called intentional torts or battery like punching of A on the nose of B can constitute an offence for battery as A has caused physical injury to B. In yet another concept of tort, where irrespecive of the fact of holding any party liable for the wrong the parties are held liable is called the concept of Strict Liability.

Physical torts are injuries to a person’s body, such as hitting them or making them sick. Abstract torts are injuries to a person’s mind, reputation, or property. Saying things about someone that are not true is known as slander, and writing things about someone that are not true is called libel, both of which are forms of defamation. Taking someone else’s property without permission is known as tresspass, which comes under the head of tort involving property. The purpose behind this laws arrival is to provide protection to the victim who incurred some sort of loss by the negligent act of an individual by putting him/her in a state where he becomes more vigilant.

Some of the general concepts and maxims in the field of tort are as stated here:

a) Injuria Sine Damnum which is refered to as injury without any sort of damage. Simplest way to get this maxim is the example of trespass to land or property. Causing of damage (plaintiff) + violation of legal right (plaintiff) = Action taken in tort law. Under the above mentioned equation plaintiff can also bring a suit under the provisions mentioned in specific relief act. Injuria sine Damnum is even applicable in the cases of trespass. The landmark judjement in this regard is of Ashby vs. White[1] where the plaintiff’s right to vote was curtailed but he did not suffer any loss or injury because of which defendant was held liable.

b) Damnum Sine Injuria maxim means a process whereby damages are caused without injury or infringement of any legal right. Damages can be in any form of any substantial harm or loss suffered from point of view of money, comfort, health, etc. It is an implied principle in law which states that there are no remedies for any moral wrongs, unless and until any legal right has been violated. The principle can be better explained by Gloucester Grammar School case[2] where even after the plaintoff suffered monetary loss but none of his legal right was violated his suit was declared to be not maintanable.

c) Absolute Liability: A small formula can be given to explain the meaning of this concept i.e. strict liability- exceptions = absolute liability . In this case along with exemplary, substantial damages are also awarded depending upon nature of activities and enterprises. The National Green Tribunal Act of 2010 gives certain clarity on concept of the absolute liability principle, where Section 17 states that the Tribunal should apply the absolute liability principle even if the disaster caused is an accident.

 Ryland’s v. Fletcher

In this case, Fletcher was running a coal mine under a lease. On the neighbouring land, Ryland’s erected a reservoir for storing water and after the construction of the reservoir even when it was partly filled with water, the shafts burst downwards and flooded the old passages and also the plaintiffs mine and the mine stopped working. Held plaintiff is not required to prove negligence, lack of care or wrongful intention on the part of the defendant for escape of something as a result of non natural use of land makes defendant liable under this rule or principle.

d) Strict Liability it refers to a process whereby a person not negligent  keeping dangerous or hazardous substance in his premises that is likely to escape in to other persons premises and cause a havoc to life or property.

Its essentials are as follows :

Dangerous substance–  examples  being explosives, toxic gasses, electricity, etc.

Escape– the dangerous substance kept in defendant’s premises is likely to enter the premises of the plaintiff and destroy or ruin it.


A had a poisonous tree in his premise whose leaves were tilting. B’s premise who had a horse who chewed the leaves of the poisonous tree and died on the spot. Held A is held  liable since his trees ( poisonous) leaves entered B’s premises as a result of which B’s horse died.

Non Natural use– Storage of water for domestic use is considered to be natural use. But storing water for the purpose of energizing a mill was considered non-natural by the Court.

There are certain exceptions to the rule of strict liability:

  1. Plaintiffs fault-  When a person enters the premises of another person who has dangerous substance in his premise and injures himself , the person keeping dangerous substance won’t be held liable.
  2. Act of God-  It can be defined as the act which are uncontrollable by humans that is the wrong caused by such act neither be foreseen nor can be controlled by human minds, such acts constitutes the Act of God.

However, under Act of God the priciple of Strict Liability are not applicable.

Landmark case in this regard can be Donoghue v. Stevenson where, Donoghue and his friend were at a cafe. Donoghue’s companion ordered and paid for her drink. The cafe purchased the product from a distributor that purchased it from Stevenson. The ginger beer came in a Dark bottle, and the contents were not visible from the outside. Donoghue drank some of the contents and her friend lifted the bottle to pour the remaining ginger beer into the tumbler. The remains of a snail in a state of decomposition dropped out of the bottle into the tumbler.

Manufacturers owe the consumer of their product a duty of care (at least in the instance where the goods cannot be inspected between manufacturing and consumption). There need not be a contractual relationship, or privity, in order for the consumer to sue in negligence.


[1] (1703) 2 LR 938.

[2]  (1410) Y.B. Hill 11 Hen, 4 of 47, p. 21, 36.