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Blog Series, Part 2: What is a Tort?

Blog Series, Part 2: What is a Tort?

In my blog from May 10, we covered a few of the most common torts. We saw that torts are private wrongs for which a private remedy is provided, usually in the form of monetary compensation. Negligence is the best-known tort and the one we encounter most in our daily lives. Product liability and premises liability are torts that are also fairly common. But there are other torts we should probably know and recognize.

Intentional torts cover a wide range of conduct. In negligence cases, the issue is whether someone violated a duty of care.  Intentional torts are concerned with violating someone’s personal rights or dignity. For example, the law recognizes that everyone has the right to be free from unwanted touching. If someone violates that right – by, say, intentionally throwing a punch – the offender has committed a battery and is liable for damages. The law also recognizes the right to freely possess and use one’s property. Intentionally interfering with that right is known as conversion. As Shakespeare famously said, we also have a right to our good name and reputation. If someone intentionally publishes falsehoods about us that damage our reputation, the law provides a remedy through the tort of defamation. 

Oftentimes, conduct amounting to an intentional tort may also be a crime. That’s perfectly ok. Obviously, the government has an interest in prosecuting crimes to promote the public good and to punish wrongdoers. Tort law, however, is meant to give victims a means of recovering compensation for the losses they may have suffered.

Another tort that is the spotlight today is known as nuisance. This tort is being used more frequently in Ohio and West Virginia with the expansion of Marcellus gas drilling. Basically, nuisance involves an unreasonable use of land that interferes with another landowner’s enjoyment of his own land. Suppose a gas company drills a well near a residence, and the light, soot, and constant noise are interfering with the resident’s homelife. Nuisance law could provide a remedy under those circumstances.

I’ll have more to say about tort law in my next blog.

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