What is Law? Civil Law - Contract and Tort

8 terms by MEMcLaughlin 

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What is the law of tort?

The word 'tort' is Norman French. It means 'twisted' or 'wrung', or to use a more modern word, 'wrong'. A tort is a wrong for which redress is available in the civil courts. The usual action is an action for damages, i.e. monetary compensation.

In negligence what is "duty of care"?

Where it is unclear whether a duty of care exists, it is possible to go back to the famous case of Donoghue v. Stevenson [1932] AC 562. In this case, a woman became very ill after having consumed the contents of a ginger beer bottle. The ginger beer bottle was found to contain the remains of a decomposed snail. Lord Atkin, in considering whether the manufacturer of the ginger beer bottle owed a duty of care to people who might drink its contents, put forward what is known as the 'neighbour principle':

'You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who then, in law, is my neighbour?

The answer seems to be persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.'

Mame two cases which expanded upon the neighbour principle.

The neighbour principle was discussed and refined in Home Office v. Dorset Yacht Co. Ltd [1970] AC 1004, in which Lord Reid approved the use of Lord Atkin's principle to decide on the existence of a duty in any novel situation (that is, where the courts are called upon for the first time to determine whether a duty of care arises in certain circumstances).


A more recent exposition of the rule was in Caparo v. Dickman [1990] 2 AC 605.

How was the rule redefined in Caparo v. Dickman [1990] 2 AC 605?

The House of Lords further refined the rule by stating that the general criteria for the existence of a duty of care in a novel situation (i.e. a situation which had not been considered by the court before) depended on:

• the foreseeability of damage, and
• proximity of relationship between claimant and defendant, and
• whether it was just in all the circumstances to impose a duty of care.

What are the main elements of a contract?

• Agreement: The parties must agree before a contract comes into existence. This is usually analysed in terms of offer and acceptance. When one party makes an offer which the other accepts, the acceptance brings the contract into existence.

• Consideration: Most contracts are bilateral, i.e. both parties will be making promises to each
other. Without these mutual obligations, the courts would not recognise the existence of a contract.

• Intention to create legal relations: The parties must intend to create a binding relationship between themselves.

What is Civil Law?

Civil Law is used to describe all those areas of law which govern the relationship between legal persons (i.e. individuals and corporations), such as contract and tort (itself an umbrella term used to describe a whole variety of specific wrongs such as negligence, nuisance, defamation and trespass).

What are the two main types of courts in the civil justice system?

County Courts and High Courts.

What are the more common matters dealt with at a County Courts?

• claims for debt repayment
• personal injury
• family issues such as divorce or adoption
• housing disputes, including non-payment of mortgage or rent, and re-possession

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