An Introduction to Tort Law
Introduction to Tort Law
In order to compare and contrast different areas of the law we must first get a clear definition of tort law, constitutional law, business law, and criminal law. According to Buckley & Okrent (2004) a tort is defined simply as a wrongful doing or injury to and individual or their property. Tort law is comes from both areas of common law and statutory law. Though tort law covers a broad area of the law there are three main categories that it covers: negligence, intentional torts, and strict or absolute liability. Even though all categories of tort law differ they must contain at these elements: duty, breach of duty, causation or damages (p. 2-4).
The next area of law we need to look at is constitutional law. According to Law preview (2011) constitutional law mainly focus on two categories: Supreme Court decisions and individual right according to the Constitution (p.1). Constitutional law looks at the government structure and the people's rights within it. Each case that the Supreme Court decides affects the rights of all U.S. citizens. Constitutional law keeps our government and citizens in order.
Business law is a little more broader of a law field. According to Lawyers (2010a) business law is part of civil law that deals with business and commerce in both private and public sectors. Business law governs not only how a business is ran but every aspect from before it opens its doors till after they close them. it deals with issues and topics such as the law of agency, corporations, partnerships, limited partnerships, franchises, limited liability, fiduciary relationships, closely held corporations, shares and stockholders, dissolution and receivership, franchise relationships, management duties and liabilities, mergers and acquisitions, securities, and antitrust (p.1).
Criminal law is one of the most common laws since we deal with it everywhere we look. According to Lawyers (2010b) criminal law focus more on an the law between an individual and their relationship with the state and/or government. The offenses are usually established by either state or federal legislatures. Criminal law takes effect the moment someone is accused until the post trail remedies are complete. The main purpose of criminal law is to punish those who commit criminal offensives. In order to convict someone of a criminal offense there must be no doubt the accused committed the crime (p.1).
Now that there are clear definitions we need to look at how the goal, burden of proof, victims and the rules of evidence differ in tort law than with the other area law named above. The victim of a tort must include some type of injury to themselves or something that they own. This is a unique area of the law in the aspect that the victim of tort law needs to be injured in some way shape or form. In constitutional law, business law and criminal law there need not be an injury for the area of law to be involved. The only exception for is at times there can be both criminal as well as tort law involved at the same time.
The rules of evidence for each of the areas of law are pretty much the same. All states hold their own rules and exceptions of evidence but they coincide with the federal rules of evidence. According to FindLaw (2011) there are four main types of evidence no matter the type of area of law: real, demonstrative, documentary, and testimonial. The rules vary from admissibility to specific evidence to the witness themselves.
In every area of law there has to be an way of proof, this is called the burden of proof. According to Whitman (n.d.) the burden of proof depend on whether the trail is civil or criminal and sometimes it depends on specific charges. In criminal trails the burden of proof is reasonable doubt, or a normal person should have no doubt in their mind that the accused is guilty of the charges. In civil trial such as tort law the burden of proof is much weaker it is called preponderance of the evidence, or that a normal person weighing all of the relevant evidence would consider the charges more likely true than not. Then there is an intermediate burden of proof called clear and convincing evidence which is used in some business law and family law (p.1).
The goals of each of the areas of law can be justified as a goal to uphold the law. More specifically the purpose for each area of law differs thus their goals differ. For tort law according to Buckley & Okrent (2004) there are several main goals. First, to serve and protect innocent persons and their property from those who are carless. Secondly, it attempts to hold tortfeasors responsible for their misconduct. Third, it encourages people to respect others property as well as making careful decisions when dealing with others.
Lastly, it allocates loses among different groups and people and who can bear the losses (p.13-4). According to Scheb (2009) The main goal and most important goal of criminal law is to protect the people, the next most important goal is the protection of property (p.124). These are the most important goals of criminal justice but sometimes these goals cannot be met. According to Scheb (2009) once a person is convicted of a crime the goals are: retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, and incapacitation (p.144). When it comes to business law the goals are like any other goals, to ensure all person are treated the way they should be. According to Scheb (2009) Business law goals are being met by the Uniform Commercial Code and is adopted by every state except Louisiana (p. 232). The goals of constitutional law is fairly simple. According to Scheb (2009) constitutional law has one main goal, to be the 'supreme law of the land.' This area of law is to hold together that states as well as our government structure (p. 74).
The legal world has it owns terminology and it is no different when it comes to tort and criminal law. There are terms that can describe both torts as well as criminal law. According to Scheb (2009) the first word that comes into play with both areas of law is intent. Intent is that the accused or tortfeasor intentionally commits an act that involves the area of law. Strict liability is also common in both areas. Strict Liability is when an individual is held liable for their actions regardless of their intent. Causation is used in both areas of the law as an element that can happen in order for the area of law to be invoked. Proximate cause goes hand in hand with causation. In both area of law the action in question is reasonably foreseeable by the defendant. Even though assault and battery is mainly tied to criminal law, it is an element that goes to both areas of the law. If an individual commits the act of assault and/or battery they can be held liable for both a criminal offense as well as an international tort. Statute of limitations is used in both areas of the law but in different aspects. In criminal law it places a time limit on the prosecution of a crime. In tort law it limits the time that a lawsuit can be brought forward by wrongful actions. False imprisonment can also be a tort as well as a criminal offense. False imprisonment is a crime against persons which the accuse can be held liable in both areas of the law. Infancy, intoxication, insanity, automatism or the mental infirmities can be used as a defense in both areas of the law. The use of deadly force is similarly defined in both areas of the law. Each state has its own guidelines on the amount of force that can be use in self defense of a person or property. In all there are a lot of similarities that are entwined in criminal law as well as tort law (p. 107-88). Some of the terminology is the same in both areas but also some of the terminology can be interpreted differently according to the area of the law it pertains to.
Buckley, R. W., & Okrent, J.C. (2004). Torts and Personal Injury Law. Australia: Thomson Delmar Learning
Law Preview. (2011). Constitutional Law. Retrieved on 18 January 2011 from http://www.lawpreview.com/index.php/ConstitutionalLaw/
Lawyers. (2010a). Business Law. Retrieved on 18 January 2011 from http://business-law.lawyers.com/
Lawyers. (2011b). Criminal Law. Retrieved on 18 January 2011 from http://criminal.lawyers.com/
FindLaw. (2011). Summary of the Rules of Evidence. Retrieved on 18 January 2011 from http://library.findlaw.com/2001/Jan/1/241488.html
Whitman, G. (n.d.) Twelve Things Debaters Should Know About Law. Retrieved on 18 January 2011 from http://www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/aboutlaw.html
Scheb, J. M (2009). An Introduction to the American Legal System. Chicago: Aspen Publishers.