Arkansas Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts
I. Introduction to Torts
A tort is a civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the act. The law of torts aims to provide relief to injured parties for harms caused by others, and to deter others from committing harmful acts.
II. Intentional Torts
Intentional torts require the defendant to have acted with intent to bring about a certain result. Common intentional torts include battery, assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, trespass to land, and trespass to chattels.
- Assault and Battery: Battery is the intentional and unlawful use of force against another that causes harm or offensive contact. Assault is an act that creates a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the victim of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.
False Imprisonment: The intentional confinement of a person without lawful privilege and against their consent within a bounded area.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED): An act by the defendant that is extreme and outrageous, intended to cause severe emotional distress to another person.
Trespass to Land: Entering or remaining upon the land of another without permission or legal right.
Trespass to Chattels: Interfering with a plaintiff’s right of possession to personal property either by dispossessing the plaintiff of the chattel, using or intermeddling with the plaintiff’s chattel.
Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person.
- Duty: The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff.
- Breach: The defendant breached that duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way.
- Causation: The defendant’s actions (or inaction) were the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
- Damages: The plaintiff suffered legal injuries as a result.
- Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co.: Establishes the principle of foreseeability in determining proximate cause.
IV. Strict Liability
Strict liability holds a defendant liable for committing an action, regardless of what his/her intent or mental state was when committing the action. In Arkansas, strict liability is often applied in cases of abnormally dangerous activities and product liability.
V. Defenses to Torts
- Consent: The plaintiff consented to the act that resulted in harm.
- Self-Defense: The defendant acted to protect himself/herself or another from harm.
- Defense of Property: The defendant acted to protect his/her property from being unjustly invaded or unlawfully taken.
- Statute of Limitations: The plaintiff did not file the lawsuit within the statutory time frame.
Damages in tort law are intended to compensate the plaintiff for losses incurred due to the defendant’s wrongful actions. They can include compensatory damages (economic and non-economic losses) and punitive damages (intended to punish the defendant).
VII. Product Liability
Product liability refers to the legal liability a manufacturer or trader incurs for producing or selling a faulty product. In Arkansas, the theories of liability include:
- Negligence: The manufacturer failed to exercise reasonable care in the production or design of the product.
- Strict Liability: The product is defective, and the defect caused injury.
- Breach of Warranty: The product fails to meet the terms of a promise regarding its quality or use.
VIII. Tort Reform in Arkansas
Arkansas has enacted tort reform measures which may limit damages and alter traditional tort doctrines. It’s important to understand the impact of these measures on tort litigation within the state.
IX. Case Law Specific to Arkansas
Arkansas has its own body of case law that interprets and applies tort concepts:
- Arkansas Model Jury Instructions – Civil (AMI) – Review these for standard jury instructions on negligence and other torts.
- Stewart v. Motts – An important Arkansas case concerning premises liability.
- Ford Motor Co. v. Washington – Addresses product liability and the application of strict liability in Arkansas.
Studying tort law in Arkansas involves a combination of general tort principles and state-specific doctrines and case law. Understanding the interplay between these will be crucial for any law student preparing for a final semester exam. Remember to focus on the application of the IRAC method in analyzing cases, and to keep abreast of any legislative changes that may impact tort law in the state.