The curious case of the tort and tortfeasor
The curious case of the tort and tortfeasor – While sitting at my desk last night debating which direction to take my next blog, two words kept popping up as I read through a chapter on family liability – tort and tortfeasor.
These are common legal words for someone like me who has been practicing family law for 23 years, but for my clients – I’m sure most of you didn’t get around to asking for a library of law books for Christmas – they are curiously strange because most people do not use words like this in everyday conversation.
Allow me to shed some light on the matter – in a digestible form.
A tort is a civil wrong inflicted by one person on another that unfairly results in loss or injury. The person who commits the wrongdoing is called the tortfeasor, and is held legally liable for committing the act. The person who is wronged can seek damages by filing a lawsuit.
Examples of torts include assault, emotional distress, invasion of privacy, illegal wiretapping, trespassing, negligence, fraud, ultra-hazardous conditions, and defamation. Torts can range from very small offenses to much larger – and at times criminal – wrongs against another person. Here’s a list of a few more:
- malicious prosecution
- false imprisonment
- breach of confidence
- product liability
It’s important to note that tort law is different from criminal law since torts can result from negligent as well as intentional or criminal actions. Plus, tort lawsuits have a lower burden of proof where damages can be proven by evidence such as medical bills, photographs or videos, and testimony.
Torts play just as big a role in family law, too. A spouse can be held individually liable for torts committed against the other spouse or a third party. Parents can also be held liable for torts against their children and for torts their child commits against third parties. And vice versa, children – although less common – can be held liable for offenses against their parents.
When one spouse commits a tort against a third party, the other spouse is not held liable unless that spouse helped in the process of committing the tort (think accessory to a crime).
A child can sue a parent for intentional or malicious acts such as employment-related injuries when the child is employed by the parent, vehicle accidents where the parent is at fault, and/or abandonment of parental responsibility. Generally, minors are civilly liable for their own torts, but a parent can be held liable for torts committed by their child in instances where they aided in the offense, demonstrated negligent entrustment or supervision, or if the child caused property damage.
Hopefully that sheds some steady light on the subject of torts, because that word will likely be used quite often as we move forward in these blogs. If you still have questions, you can always reach out to one of our knowledgeable team members at Nelson Law Group, PC. Thanks for reading!