Tort Law and its General Defenses

To put it briefly, the word employed in tort law is "general defenses," which implies that when a plaintiff initiates an action against a defendant for a tort they committed, that person will be found accountable for it if all the necessary elements are present for that harm to have occurred. However, there are various defenses that are accessible to the accused that they can utilize to release themselves from responsibility for the wrongdoing.

What is Tort Law

A tort is a civil wrong that exposes the wrongdoer to legal responsibility and results in loss or harm to the claimant. Criminal law, which deals with crimes that the state has the power to punish, can be compared with tort law. Tort law strives to recompense those who suffer harm as a result of the actions of others, in contrast to criminal law, which seeks to punish people who commit crimes.

General Defenses

Major general defenses are as follows −

Volenti non fit injuria

A spectator named V went to a soccer match and sat in the front row. During a penalty kick, the player's ball struck V on the head, causing a minor injury to his forehead. He filed a lawsuit against the stadium and the player, but they used the defense of "Volenti non fit injuria," which states that when a person voluntarily agrees to suffer an injury, that may be unlawful.

The plaintiff in Thomas v. Quartermine was a worker at the brewery owned by the defendant. He was attempting to open the lid of a water tank that was on fire. The plaintiff had to exert an additional pull to remove the lid since it had been struck. He was thrown into another container that held hot liquid by the force created by the additional pull, and the incident left him with catastrophic injuries. As the danger was apparent to the defendant and the plaintiff took a voluntary action that led to his injuries, the defendant was not held responsible.

The plaintiff is the wrongdoer

If the foundation is built on illegal contract conditions, the plaintiff will not be successful in filing an action or recovering damages. Ex turpi causa non oritur actio, which states that "from an immoral cause, no action originates," serves as its foundation.

Accident that was inevitable

This describes an occurrence that was unavoidable and could not have been predicted or avoided in time, despite all reasonable precautions. There was an 18-year-old rider in the Pitts v. Hunt case. He encouraged his 16-year-old pal to drive quickly while intoxicated. But when their motorcycle was involved in an accident, the driver passed away instantly. The pillion rider sustained severe injuries and launched a lawsuit to recover damages from the deceased person's heirs. He was the one who committed the crime in this instance, so his argument was rejected.

Act of God

The Act of God's defenses are a somewhat notable variant of unavoidable accidents, but the main distinction between the two is that in the Act of God, natural forces play a crucial role. For instance, when a person acts in good faith to prevent harm from occurring in the case of a hurricane, flood, etc., they are not held accountable. If an act is purposely carried out in order to mitigate a greater threat, the perpetrator will not be held accountable.


Even if a person felt that what they were doing at the time was justified, they cannot utilize that belief as a defense when they willingly and purposefully damage someone or even violate their rights.

Legislative authority

Any action that might be construed as a tort may be justified if it is permitted by a law or other regulation. The harmed person is not entitled to any form of redress; however, they may receive compensation for their losses. Under statutory authority, an injury that is ancillary to the obvious harm is likewise protected from liability.

Absolute and Conditional Authority

With absolute authority, there is absolutely no culpability for any harm, including nuisance or other types of harm. However, with conditional authority, the same is achievable without causing nuisance or other types of harm.

In Metropolitan Asylum District v. Hil, the appellants—hospital administrators—were given approval to establish a smallpox hospital. However, the hospital was built in a neighborhood that was not safe for the locals because the sickness might spread there. An injunction was granted against the hospital because it was deemed to be a nuisance. In this instance, the authority was conditional.


To sum up, generic defenses play a huge and essential part in torts when it comes to avoiding or evading potential liabilities. It's essential to have general defense knowledge in addition to understanding torts. The concept of universal defenses is extremely applicable in situations involving torts, which are the majority of the things that have recently been brought before the court.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What tort defenses are used the most frequently?

Ans. Provocation, self-defense, defense of another, defense of property, accident, or permission are the most frequent of these. According to the doctrine of comparative negligence, a defendant may also assert that the plaintiff was negligent and is therefore entirely or partially accountable for the losses.

Q2. What are the major components of torts?

Ans. Major components of torts are

  • In the majority of personal injury cases, the accused had a responsibility to act in a way that didn't harm you.

  • That obligation was broken by the accused.

  • You suffered a wound.

  • Your damages were directly caused by the violation of duty.

Updated on: 14-Mar-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started