Chapter 5 Torts and Cyber Torts
§1: Basis of Tort Law • Doing business today involves risks, both legal and financial. • A tort is a civil injury designed to provide compensation for injury to a legally protected, tangible or intangible, interest. • There are intentional and unintentional (negligence) torts.
§2: Intentional Torts Against Persons and Business Relationships • The person committing the tort, the Tortfeasor or Defendant, must “intend” to commit the act. Intend means: • Tortfeasor intended the consequences of her act; or • She knew with substantial certainty that certain consequences would result.
Types of Intentional Torts • Assault and Battery. • False Imprisonment. • Infliction of Emotional Distress. • Defamation. • Invasion of Privacy. • Business Torts.
Assault and Battery • ASSAULT is an intentional, unexcused act that: • Creates a reasonable apprehension or fear of, • Immediate harmful or offensive contact. • NO CONTACT NECESSARY. • BATTERY is the completion of the Assault: • Intentional or Unexcused. • Harmful, Offensive or Unwelcome. • Physical Contact.
Defenses to Assault & Battery • Consent. • Self-Defense (reasonable force). • Defense of Others (reasonable force). • Defense of Property.
False Imprisonment • False Imprisonment is the intentional: • Confinement or restraint. • Of another person’s activities. • Without justification. • Merchants may reasonably detain customers if there is probable cause.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress • An intentional act that is: • Extreme and outrageous, that • Results in severe emotional distress in another. • Most courts require some physical symptom or illness.
Defamation • Right to free speech is constrained by duty we owe each other to refrain from making false statements. • Orally breaching this duty is slander; breaching it in print or media is libel.
Defamation • Gravamen of defamation is the “publication” of a false statement that holds an individual up to hatred, contempt or ridicule in the community. • Publication requires communication to a 3rd party.
Damages for Libel • General Damages are presumed; Plaintiff does not have to show actual injury. • General damages include compensation for disgrace, dishonor, humiliation, injury to reputation and emotional distress.
Damages for Slander • Rule: Plaintiff must prove “special damages” (actual economic loss). • Exceptions for Slander Per Se. No proof of damages is necessary: • Loathsome disease, • Business improprieties, • Serious crime, • Woman is non-chaste.
Defenses to Defamation • Truth is generally an absolute defense. • Privileged (or Immune) Speech. • Absolute: judicial & legislative proceedings. • Qualified: Employee Evaluations.
Defamation-Public Figures • Public figures exercise substantial governmental power or are otherwise in the public limelight. • To prevail, they must show “actual malice”: statement was made with either knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.
Invasion of Privacy • Every person has a fundamental right to solitude freedom from public scrutiny. • Use of Person’s Name or Likeness. • Intrusion on Individual’s Affairs or Seclusion. • Publication of Information that Places a Person in False Light. • Public Disclosure of Private Facts.
Appropriation Use of another’s name, likeness or other identifying characteristic for commercial purposes without the owner’s consent.
Fraudulent Misrepresentation • Fraud is intentional deceit. Elements: • Misrepresentation of material fact; • Intent to induce another to rely; • Justifiable reliance by innocent party; • Damages as a result of reliance; • Causal connection. • Fact vs. Opinion.
Wrongful Interference • Tort that interferes with a contractual relationship. • Occurs when: • Defendant knows about contract between A and B; • Intentionally induces either A or B to breach the contract; and • Defendant benefits from breach. • Case 5.1:Mathis v. Liu (2002).
Wrongful Interference • With a Business Relationship occurs when: • Established business relationship; • Tortfeasor, using predatory methods, causes relationship to end; and • Plaintiff suffers damages. • Bona fide competitive behavior is a defense to this tort.
§3: Intentional Torts to Property • Trespass to land occurs when a person, without permission: • Physically enters onto, above or below the surface of another’s land; or • Causes anything to enter onto the land; or • Remains, or permits anything to remain, on the land.
Intentional Torts to Personal Property • Trespass to personal property is the Intentional interference with another’s use or enjoyment of personal property without consent or privilege. • Disparagement of Property. • Slander of Title or Quality.
§4: Negligence • Tortfeasor does not intend the consequences of the act or believes they will occur. • Actor’s conduct merely creates a foreseeable risk of injury. Analysis: • Defendant owed Plaintiff a duty of care; • Defendant breached that duty; • Plaintiff suffered legal injury; • Defendant’s breach caused the injury.
Duty of Care • Defendant owes duty to protect Plaintiff from foreseeable risks that Defendant knew or should have known about. • Courts use reasonable person standard (jury) to determine whether duty exists. • Duty of Landowners to invitees. • Case 5.2:Martin v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (1999).
Duty of Care: Foreseeability • The consequences of an act are legally foreseeable if they are consequences that typically occur in the course of event. • Whether an act is foreseeable is generally considered a matter of fact determined by the reasonable person standard (jury).
Duty of Care • Duty of care varies, based on the Defendant’s occupation, relationship to Plaintiff. • Professionals may owe higher duty of care based on special education, skill or intelligence. Breach of duty is called professional malpractice.
Injury and Damages • To recover, Plaintiff must show legally recognizable injury. • Compensatory Damages are designed to reimburse Plaintiff for actual losses. • Punitive Damages are designed to punish the tortfeasor and deter others from wrongdoing.
Causation • Even though a Tortfeasor owes a duty of care and breaches the duty of care, the act must have caused the Plaintiff’s injuries. • Causation in Fact, and • Proximate Cause. • Case 5.3:Palsgraf v. Long Island RR Co. (1928)
Causation in Fact • Did the injury occur because of the Defendant’s act, or would the injury have occurred anyway? • Usually determined by the “but for” test, i.e., but for the Defendant’s act the injury would not have occurred.
Proximate Causation • An act is the proximate (or legal) cause of the injury when the causal connection between the act and injury is strong enough to impose liability. • Foreseeability of injury is an important factor. • Think of proximate cause as an unbroken chain of events.
Defenses to Negligence • Assumption of Risk. • Superceding Intervening Cause. • Contributory or Comparative Negligence.
Assumption of Risk • Plaintiff has adequate notice and understanding of the risks associated with an activity. • He knowingly and willingly engages in the act anyway. • Plaintiff, in the eyes of the law, assumes the risk of injuries that fall within the scope of the risk understood. • Case 5.4:Crews v. Hollenbach (1999).
Superceding Cause • A unforeseeable, intervening act that occurs after Defendant’s act that breaks the causal relationship between Defendant’s act and Plaintiff’s injury relieving Defendant of liability. • If the intervening act was foreseeable, however, Defendant may be liable for Plaintiff’s injuries.
Contributory Negligence • Under common law, if Plaintiff in any way caused his injury, he was barred from recovery. • Most states have replaced contributory negligence with the doctrine of comparative negligence. • The operative concept in comparative negligence is that one cannot recover from another for any injuries one has caused to oneself.
Comparative Negligence • In determining liability, the amount of damages a Plaintiff causes to herself are subtracted from the amount of damages suffered by the Plaintiff, and only the remainder is recoverable from the Defendant. • However, if Plaintiff is more than 50% liable, she recovers nothing.
Special Negligence Doctrines • Res Ipsa Loquiter. • Negligence Per Se occurs when Defendant violates statute that causes injury to Plaintiff: • Statute sets out standard of care. • Plaintiff is member of class intended to be protected by statute. • Statute designed to prevent Plaintiff’s injury.
Special Negligence Statutes • “Danger Invites Rescue” Doctrine. • Good Samaritan Statutes. • Dram Shop Acts.
§ 5: Cyber Torts • Defamation Online. • Liability of ISP’s. • Piercing the Veil of Anonymity. • Spam. • Trespass to Personal Property. • Statutory Regulation of Spam.
Law on the Web • Cases on Torts and Cyber Torts • LawGuru.com • Legal Research Exercises on the Web