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tort, in law, the violation of some duty clearly set by law, not by a specific agreement between two parties, as in breach of contract. When such a duty is breached, the injured party has the right to institute suit for compensatory damages. Certain torts, such as nuisance, may be suppressed by injunction. Many crimes are also torts; burglary, for instance, often constitutes trespass.

The history of Anglo-American tort law can be traced back to the action for trespass to property or to the person. Not until the late 18th cent. was the currently observed distinction made between injury willfully inflicted and that which is unintentional. In the early 19th cent., negligence was distinguished as a separate tort, and it has come to supply a large portion of tortious litigation.

The general tendency today is to rule that the breach of any duty constitutes a tort, rather than to rule that an alleged tort must fit into some previously recognized variety, such as assault, false imprisonment, or libel. Some courts treat any willful unjustified injury as tortious, while others hold that the act must be defined as tortious by law, regardless of the perpetrator's motive. Torts that injure reputation or feelings are personal torts; those violating statutory rights are constitutional torts; those involving real or personal property are property torts. Property torts include several classes of torts, such as automobile accidents, negligence, product liability, and medical malpractice.

In some areas, tort liability can be assigned without a finding of fault, as in no-fault automobile insurance. In areas where the finding of fault remains crucial, and the awards of compensatory or punitive damages can be substantial, tort litigation can be time-consuming and costly. Its defenders claim tort litigation promotes safety and economic efficiency, while critics argue the process does little but raise insurance premiums while providing windfalls to a handful of lawyers. Efforts to reform tort law hope to set limits to damage settlements and to broaden no-fault statutes for use in alternative forms of litigation. In the 1990s many U.S. states, pressed chiefly by conservatives and business interests, passed laws limiting damages, but state courts have repeatedly voided these limits as violations of “open courts” guarantees in state constitutions.

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Law a civil wrong arising from an act or failure to act, independently of any contract, for which an action for personal injury or property damages may be brought
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
1497, 1513 n.64 (1974) (arguing that moral luck is less problematic in the tort context, as loss allocation remains an important goal of torts).
After a serious crash, two systems of law play particularly important roles: tort law and criminal law.
In the context of traffic crime, however, the line between tort and criminal law is blurring, as criminal law takes on significant features of tort doctrine.
Beatson draws attention to the fact that when there is a sale or use of property, in addition to the torts of conversion or trespass available to the plaintiff, there is also a "subtraction from exclusive dominium [of the plaintiff]".
Waiver of tort is an archaic legal doctrine through which a plaintiff can choose to relinquish the right to compensation for damages and instead receive disgorgement of the defendant's wrongful gains.
The author argues that both the traditional understanding of waiver of tort and the conception of waiver of tort as an independent cause of action are untenable.
Kip Viscusi, Empirical Analysis of Tort Damages, in Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts 460, 467-69 (Jennifer Arlen ed., 2014) [hereinafter Viscusi, Empirical Analysis of Tort Damages].
In this article, our objective is to examine the performance of tort liability, focusing particularly on its insurance role.
Calabresi's insight that the tort system serves a fundamental insurance function has proved to be a seminal contribution to the discipline of law and economics, which at the time of his article largely consisted of only one other major contribution, Coase's analysis of externalities.