The upcoming two lectures address a subject that is sometimes defined by what it is not. Torts do not involve a contract, either oral or written. They do not involve a crime, and thus the government is not involved in bringing a criminal charge or in imposing criminal penalties. Torts are, instead, that body of law by which personswho has been wrongfully harmed or who have suffered loss (physically or otherwise) can themselves bring a claim to receive money damages in an amount that is a proxy for their harm. Although an award of money is seldom a truly satisfactory replacement for what the injured party has lost, it is most often the best remedy that the civil justice system has to offer. There may be, it should be noted, equitable remedies that don’t involve compensation, such as receiving a court-ordered injunction against the defendant ordering that an activity be stopped, or even not started.
So, how might the availability of tort remedies play out in our day to day lives? Let’s start with when we wake up, prepare ourselves for the day, and venture outside. If we are reasonably optimistic, what do we expect? Perhaps first and foremost, most of us expect that at the close of the day we will not have been injured by being tackled from out of the blue, or knocked over by a careless bicycle courier, or have a beer keg dropped on our head from a the second floor of a tavern. When we get into our car to drive it , we do not expect that a defect in its structure, or in one of its tires, will caused us to veer off of the road into an accident. When we arrive at our newly purchased home that seemed picture perfect when we first saw it (on a day in which the winds were northerly) we do not expect to find that now, with the winds blowing southerly, a smell of rotten eggs from a town landfill makes it impossible for us to sit for any length of time in the back yard. On our optimistic day, we probably don’t expect anyone to falsely claim that we have committed a criminal act, or that we have engaged in an activity that calls one’s morals into question, such as will cause others to shun or ostracize us.