Delaware Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts


I. Introduction to Torts
A. Definition of Torts
– Torts are civil wrongs, other than breach of contract, for which the law provides a remedy.
B. Purpose of Tort Law
– Compensate victims for harm caused by others
– Deter wrongful conduct
– Encourage socially responsible behavior

II. Intentional Torts
A. Battery
– Intentional and unlawful physical contact or offensive touching without consent.
– Case: Garratt v. Dailey (1955) – Brian Dailey, a five-year-old boy, pulls a chair from under Ruth Garratt. Court analyzes intent.
B. Assault
– Intentional act creating a reasonable apprehension of immediate harmful or offensive contact.
– Case: I de S and Wife v. W de S (1348) – Early case discussing assault.
C. False Imprisonment
– Intentional confinement of a person without lawful privilege and without consent.
– Case: Whittaker v. Sandford (1912) – Unlawful detention on a boat.
D. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)
– Outrageous conduct causing severe emotional distress.
– Case: Harris v. Jones (1977) – Examines the standard for outrageous conduct.
E. Trespass to Land
– Intentional entry onto the land of another without permission or legal right.
– Case: Rogers v. Board of Road Com’rs for Kent County (1997) – Landowner rights versus public use.
F. Trespass to Chattels
– Intentionally interfering with the use or possession of personal property.
– Case: Intel Corp. v. Hamidi (2003) – Discusses electronic trespass.

III. Defenses to Intentional Torts
A. Consent
– Plaintiff’s willingness for the defendant’s conduct to occur.
B. Self-Defense
– Use of reasonable force to prevent harm to oneself.
– Case: Katko v. Briney (1971) – Use of force for property protection.
C. Defense of Others
– Use of reasonable force to defend another person.
D. Defense of Property
– Use of reasonable non-deadly force to protect property.

IV. Negligence
A. Duty
– The legal obligation to conform to a standard of care.
– Case: Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. (1928) – Duty determined by foreseeability.
B. Breach of Duty
– Failure to meet the standard of care.
– The Reasonable Person Standard
– Case: Vaughan v. Menlove (1837) – The reasonable person standard.
C. Causation
– Actual Cause (Cause in Fact)
– “But-for” test or substantial factor test.
– Proximate Cause (Legal Cause)
– Foreseeability and limits of liability.
– Case: Herskovits v. Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound (1983) – Loss of chance doctrine.
D. Damages
– Harm caused by the breach must result in legally recognized damages.
– Compensatory and punitive damages.
E. Res Ipsa Loquitur
– The doctrine allowing the inference of negligence when the event is one that normally does not occur without negligence.

V. Defenses to Negligence
A. Comparative Negligence
– Delaware follows a modified comparative negligence system with a 51% bar rule.
– Case: Wright v. Moffitt (1984) – Delaware’s comparative negligence.
B. Contributory Negligence (Not applicable in Delaware)
C. Assumption of Risk
– Knowledge of the risk and voluntary acceptance.

VI. Strict Liability
A. Abnormally Dangerous Activities
– Liability for harm resulting from activities that are inherently dangerous.
B. Animals
– Strict liability for harm caused by wild animals and, in some cases, domestic animals.
C. Product Liability
– Manufacturers and sellers may be strictly liable for defective products that cause harm.
– Case: Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) – California case that helped shape product liability law.

VII. Products Liability
A. Theories of Liability
– Negligence
– Breach of Warranty
– Strict Liability
B. Defective Design
– The product is inherently dangerous due to its design.
C. Manufacturing Defect
– The product is dangerous due to a manufacturing error.
D. Failure to Warn
– The product lacks adequate instructions or warning of potential risks.

VIII. Nuisance
A. Public Nuisance
– An unreasonable interference with a right common to the general public.
B. Private Nuisance
– A substantial and unreasonable interference with private use and enjoyment of land.

IX. Damages
A. Compensatory Damages
– Economic and non-economic losses.
B. Punitive Damages
– Designed to punish and deter, particularly egregious behavior.

X. Conclusion
– Understanding torts in Delaware involves grasping the interplay between common law principles and specific state statutes and judicial decisions.
– This guide provides an overview of fundamental tort concepts, but detailed review of case law, statutory law, and the Delaware Code is essential for thorough preparation for the final semester exam.

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