What is a ‘tort?’

A tort is a private or civil wrong or injury (other than breach of contract) for which a court of law may provide a remedy through a lawsuit for damages (compensation). When a person violates his/her duty to others created under general (or statutory) law, a tort has been committed.

The four elements present in a typical tort lawsuit are:

(1) The existence of a legal duty owed by a person to others

(2) The breach of the duty by one person (negligence)

(3) The breach of the duty being the "proximate cause" of damages suffered by a person

(4) Damages incurred by a person.

Each of the four elements of a tort typically must be present to be compensated.


What is ‘strict liability’?

Strict liability is a legal doctrine that makes some persons responsible for damages their actions or products cause, regardless of any "fault" on their part.

Strict liability often applies when people engage in inherently hazardous activities, such as doing "blasting" in a city, or keeping wild circus animals. If the blasting damages you -- no matter how careful the blasting company was -- it is liable for the injury. Similarly if the animals escape and injure someone, the fact that the circus used the world's strongest cages and the highest standard of care imaginable will not let it get off the hook.

Strict liability also may apply in the case of certain manufactured products. In strict product liability, typically anyone who is engaged in the stream of commence of the product (from the manufacturer to the wholesaler to the retailer, or all of them) can be held responsible if the product was defective and someone was injured. There is no need to prove negligence but the injured party must prove that the product was defective.

Defective products may be the result of bad manufacturing for the failure to provide adequate instructions for the use of the product. Those engaged in the stream of commerce with respect to products should reasonably foresee that some people will misuse the product and should design the product so that injury does not occur.

Disclaimers and waivers of liability for products are often invalidated by courts as against public policy (courts should not condone the manufacture and distribution of defective products) and typically warranties are limited so that manufacturers and retailers are held responsible for personal injuries caused by the use of the product.


What is ‘negligence’?
A person is negligent when he or she fails to act like the standard "ordinary reasonable person". Of course the critical issue in many cases is just how an "ordinary, reasonable person" was expected to act in the particular situation that caused the injury.

For example, an ordinary, reasonable person can travel down the Interstate, which has a posted speed limit of 65 miles per hour, at 65 miles per hour. However, if dense fog is present, the same ordinary, reasonable person would be expected to reduce his/her speed of travel. Suppose someone plows into your car while she was driving at 55 or 45 or 35? Would that be what the standard "ordinary reasonable person" should have done?

The determination of whether a given person has met his/her "ordinary reasonable person" standard is often a matter that is resolved by a jury after presentation of evidence and argument at trial.
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