Tort Liability and Crimes Discussion Essay

Wrongs in law are generally divided into civil and criminal wrongs based on whom the wrong is committed against. In a civil wrong, the wrong is committed against an individual (including an organization), and the parties to the suit are individuals (plaintiff and defendant). For example, damage to property of a person is a civil case. In criminal wrong, the wrong is committed against the state, and the parties to the suit are the wrongdoer and the state. For example, murder is a crime.

Civil wrongs are broadly divided into torts and breach of contract. Breach of trust is another civil wrong, but it may usually be considered a tort or breach of contract depending on the facts. In breaches of contract, there is a contractual relationship between the parties, and if any party goes against the contract, a civil wrong is committed. In this regard, torts are like crimes, as a tort may be committed against any person and the right against a tort is available against the whole world. The right against a crime is also available against the whole world. This is known as ‘right in rem’ (right against a civil wrong is ‘right in person’). However, there are many distinctive features between torts and crimes which make up the respective wrongs that will be the present subject matter.

A tort is a French word that means ‘wrong.’ Tort law is the division of rule dealing with torts. Legally, a tort is a wrong committed by the defendant against the plaintiff by causing a legal injury to the plaintiff. The plaintiff is the victim who files a tort case against the wrongdoer, who is the defendant. Therefore, a tort can be viewed as a private infringement of the civil rights of a particular person or his/her property. The remedy to the plaintiff for the injury suffered is usually monetary compensation by the defendant.

The intention is not of much relevance in torts. A tort may be committed even unintentionally or negligently but what is essential in a tort is that the victim suffered a legal injury due to the wrongdoer’s act. Torts are still divided into intentional and unintentional torts. The effect of both kinds of torts is the same, that is, legal injury is caused to the plaintiff, but intentional torts are regarded as more serious offenses as the wrongdoer had a malicious intent of causing damage. There are different kinds of torts depending on the kind of injury they cause. However, there are four essential elements to constitute any tort which are described in the following:

Duty of care: The law imposes a duty of taking reasonable care while doing any act which may cause harm to any other person. For a tort action, the plaintiff must attest that the defendant had the obligation of concern toward him/her.

Breach of the duty: The defendant must have breached the duty he/she owes toward the plaintiff. Usually, the plaintiff must show that the defendant has failed to take reasonable care to prevent the injury caused to him/her or that the defendant acted negligently.

Legal injury: The plaintiff must have suffered a legal injury to claim a tort against the defendant. For example, the client must have faced a financial loss because of acting on the lawyer’s advice. If there is no loss or injury, the defendant will not be liable, even if there is a breach of duty.

Causation: The plaintiff must prove that the damage was a straight source of the wrongful act or the defendant’s negligence. There is no tort if there is a breach of duty by the defendant and loss to the plaintiff, but the breach of duty did not cause the loss.

What are Crimes?
The word crime is derived from the Greek word ‘krimos,’ which means social order. It also means ‘to accuse’ in Latin. Therefore, a crime may be viewed as an accusable act against the social order. Crimes are unfair that harms the entire society and not a particular person. Although a crime is committed against an individual, the state prosecutes the criminal because the crime affects society, and the state has to protect society. Criminal law is the law dealing with crimes.

There are two essential elements in a crime: ‘mens rea’ and ‘actus rea.’ Mens rea is Latin for criminal intent. If a person has committed a wrongful act but did it by mistake or negligently, then the act may not be considered a crime. Actus rea is Latin for criminal activity. It is only natural that there must be a wrongful act for the constitution of crime. Both the elements must simultaneously be present. Therefore, for a crime, the criminal must have intentionally committed the wrongful act against the state’s law.

A crime is categorized as committed against the federal criminal code or a state criminal code. Often, there is an overlap due to the nature of the crime as it violates both the federal criminal code and the state criminal code, in which case, the federal system generally lets the state take care of the offense. A federal criminal code is also important as sometimes, an act that is lawful in one state could be considered unlawful in another state, in which case the federal criminal code is referred.

Comparison between Torts and Crimes
The following are the distinctive features between torts and crimes:

Torts affect a particular person or their property. Crimes affect society as a whole as a criminal with criminal intent is dangerous to the whole society.

In a tort, the parties to the suit are the victim and the wrongdoer. The state prosecutes the criminal in a crime, so the parties are the state and the criminal.

In a tort, there is a requirement of harm caused to another person to constitute a tort. There is no such requirement in a crime, and an action may be a crime even if the act does not cause any harm or if the wrongdoer causes harm to himself/herself.

The sanctions against a tort are compensation to be provided for the loss caused to the victim. The sanctions against a crime are much harsher, such as fines, loss of liberty, or even loss of life.

The intention is almost irrelevant in a tort, and most torts are caused by negligence. In a crime, the intention is an essential element without which there is no crime. Consequently, the range of acts that can be considered a crime is much more comprehensive than tort, as only a limited number of acts can be caused negligently.

Tort law considers the victim’s acts and behavior to determine the sanction against the wrongdoer. Even if the victim also committed a wrongful act in a crime, the sanction against the wrongdoer will not be affected.

Tort law is mainly based on common law doctrines and the judgments of the court. Criminal law is primarily statutory, and the crimes are listed explicitly in the legislation.

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