Torts – Nature and Meaning:
The term ‘tort’ is derived from the Latin term ‘tortum’. Tort means a civil wrong. It is a wrong for which the remedy is to claim compensation, popularly called ‘damages’. This is different from criminal wrong where the wrongdoer is punished.
The person who suffers the injury is called the ‘victim’ or the ‘plaintiff’.
The person who is responsible for that injury is called the ‘tortfeasor’ or the ‘defendant’.
Basic Elements of ‘Tort’
From the above example, we can gather the essential elements of a ‘tort’. They are:
- Wrongful act or omission by the defendant.
- Such wrongful act or omission interferes with the legal rights of the plaintiff, i.e., legal injury to the plaintiff.
- Legal remedy of damages (compensation) is available to the plaintiff.
Why do we need ‘Law of Torts’
All civilized legal systems of the world support the well-known maxim, ‘ubi jus ibi remedium’ i.e., where there is a right, there is a remedy. This is the purpose of the ‘Law of torts’.
Rights cannot exist in vacuum. There is always someone who owes a corresponding duty to the right holder.
I have a right to enjoy the peaceful possession of my house. My neighbors have a corresponding duty to ensure that my peace is not disturbed noise, say, from extremely loud music playing all through the night.
So, if I have a right, I can enjoy it only if my neighbors perform their duty towards me.
Therefore, the law of torts serves a two-fold purpose:
- Rights of people given to them by law must be protected.
- Upon violation of legal right, the victim must be given an adequate remedy to compensate for his loss.