Tort Law: Definition and Meaning

It is founded on morality, which is intended to be a legal imperative on people to carry out their obligations, and when there is a breach of such duty, tort law provides the complainant with relief in the form of compensation or damages from the defendant.

What is meaning of Tort?

Tort is a civil wrong, meaning it is an offense against a person. The Latin word "tortum," which implies crooked or twisted, is where the term "tort" originates. In this sense, it is comparable to the term "wrong" in English. Criminal and civil law are the two divisions of law. Tort and contract law make up the other two categories under civil law. In essence, it is a violation of the legal obligation. It is an infringement on the legal rights of others. When someone hurts someone on purpose or negligently, that is considered a tort.

It differs from breaches of trust or of a contract. Tort occurs when another party's negligence or carelessness leads to an act by one party that harms the other party. The terms "plaintiff" and "defendant" refer to the party suing and the party being sued, respectively.

Types of Tort

Generally, following three are the major types of torts −

Intentional Tort − In such a case, someone intentionally harmed another person and caused either bodily injury or property damage.

Negligent Tort − When a person forgets or ignores to perform a duty that he owes to perform and his such negligence causes harm to another person, he will be held liable for such a wrong.

Strict Liability Tort − It is also known as "no−fault liability. In such a case, if a person’s servant or animal harms another person, then that person will be held liable. For example, if, because of a worker’s mistake, a harmful gas leaked in a factory and damaged the people living nearby, then the factory owner, who might not have known of the incident, will be held liable and will have to pay the damages.


Some Jurist defines tort as −

  • According to Salmond − "a tort is a civil wrong for which a common law action for unliquidated damages is the only available remedy and which does not only result from a breach of contract, trust, or another purely equitable obligation."

  • According to Winfield − "Tortious liability comes from the breach of a duty that is fundamentally fixed by the law− this obligation is towards persons generally, and its breach is remediable by an action for unliquidated damages,"

The definitions offered by Salmond and Winfield conflict with one another. Winfield's concept is theorist−oriented, whereas Salmond's definition is practical−oriented. While students favor Winfield's perspective, lawyers prefer Salmond's.

In the context of the tort of fraudulent activity, the Sanskrit word Jimha, which subtly means "crooked," was utilized in ancient Hindu law. The legal system in England prior to 1066, when William the Conqueror of the Norman Conquest of England, conquered it, was a bit disjointed and operated more or less on a case−by−case basis. Eminent judges were sent to visit a certain region after 1066 in order to integrate the village rules that had evolved over a two−century period. These judges took note of and used the principles they thought would be most unbiased in their own court's decisions after learning this information. These cases eventually evolved into what are currently referred to as "legal precedents" when cited sufficiently. From England, tort law was introduced in India.

In modern parlance, these judges' trial sessions were known as "assessments" or "sittings." The term "bench" still refers to the location from which a judge renders verdicts and sentences. The word "common law" refers to the set of precedents that were intended to apply equally to every member of society, from a lord to a servant.

Recognizing Tort Law

It describes −

  • A tort might result in harm to the body or mind, property loss or damage, monetary loss, etc. Loss of current or future revenue is one example of damage.

  • The Court decides how much money will be awarded in damages. Through a court process, the damaged party will seek compensation. Liability under tort law can result from negligence, willful inaction when there is a duty to act, or breaking the law.

  • Therefore, strict responsibility, deliberate, and negligent torts are the three types under tort law. Accidents are regarded as torts for negligence. A common example of an intentional tort, or harm done to someone notwithstanding malice, is theft.

  • The manufacturing or sale of defective items is subject to strict liability for tort damages. Strict responsibility torts are those that focus on the guilty mental condition of the wrongdoer.

  • In a legal action concerning a tortious act, the person who committed the tort is known as the "Tortfeasor" and would be the defendant.

  • In a case from February 2016, a Google self−driving car that was in Mountain View, California, struck a bus. The vehicle noticed a collection of sandbags surrounding a storm drain and veered into another lane to get around them, crashing into the side of a bus. Under tort law, drivers can claim compensation from the manufacturer for a defective portion of a car.

The Basics of Tort Law

Basics of tort law are −

  • Act/Omission− To qualify as such a wrongdoing act or omission, there must be some sort of responsibility violation. In other words, there was a duty to act in a way that a reasonable man would be expected to act in a given situation, whether that action was to be taken or not. If a company maintains a children's park with a hazardous plant but does not install adequate fencing. In such a case, if one of the kids ate a fruit from that tree and fallen ill, then the company may be held liable for this illness. However, in case of immoral or social behavior, no such person or company will be liable but rather if such behavior caused damage to another person, then that would be considered as criminal offence.

  • Legal Damage− Tort must involve a breach of a legal obligation. The plaintiff's legal right must have been violated, meaning that some action or inaction led to a violation of the law. If a legal right has been violated, action may be taken. The plaintiff could sue for damages for the harm he suffered.

The following maxims could aid in a clearer understanding of legal damage −

Injuria Sine Damnum "Injuria" refers to an unauthorized intrusion on the plaintiff's rights. "Damnum" refers to damage or loss experienced in terms of convenience, finances, health, etc. When a legal right is violated without causing the plaintiff any harm, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit.
Damnum Sine Injuria "The plaintiff has suffered some harm without any unauthorized interference with his or her legal rights. Though the other party is exercising his legal right, a person cannot sue for damages even if the injury was caused by the defendant's intentional behavior. For instance, a defendant built a school directly in front of the plaintiff's school.


A "tort," which simply describes a civil wrong, means causing harm to the claimant; as a result, he or she suffered injury or loss. Such a wrongful act generates legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act and is held liable to pay the damages. Tort law can be compared with criminal law, which deals with criminal wrongs that are punishable by the state. But the difference is that criminal law aims to punish offenders who commit crimes; on the other hand, tort law aims to compensate individuals who suffer harm as a result of the intentional or unintentional actions of others. Tort law may also be compared with contract law, and here there is some similarity in terms of punishment. In case of breach of contract, contract law provides civil remedies in the form of compensation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What does tort law mean?

Tort law simply describes the provisions for damages that the wrongdoer has to give the complainant. Whether done unintentionally or intentionally, a person is responsible for their wrongdoing. The payment of damages is used to make up for the injured or harmed person.

Q. What are the examples of torts?

Assault, battery, property damage, property conversion, and intentionally causing emotional distress are some of the examples of common torts.

Q. How does Indian statute define a tort?

In India, tort law is an uncodified law, so tort cases are decided largely based on the facts of the case and relevant case−laws. However, some of the legislative initiatives has taken to codify statutes governing the Law of Torts, such as the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1923 and the Fatal Accidents Act of 1855, have been made.

Q. Is there any special law to deal with civil wrong in India?

In India, there is a branch of law known as "Indian Tort Law" that deals with non−contractual civil wrongdoings. A person who experiences bodily harm or property damage may claim damages under tort law from those who are held accountable or legally liable.

Updated on: 16-Dec-2022


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