Georgia Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts
Torts law deals with civil wrongs that cause harm or loss resulting in legal liability. In Georgia, as in other jurisdictions, torts are divided into three main categories: intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability. This guide will cover key concepts, cases, and statutes relevant to each category, tailored to the specifics of Georgia law.
Intentional torts are actions performed with the intent to bring about a specific result, which is generally harmful to the plaintiff.
– Definition: The intentional infliction of harmful or offensive bodily contact.
– Case: Cohen v. Smith, where a patient’s religious right to refuse contact from the opposite sex was considered offensive contact.
– Georgia Statute: O.C.G.A § 51-1-13 provides that a person who commits tortious acts, including battery, may be liable for damages.
– Definition: An act that creates a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the plaintiff of imminent harmful or offensive contact.
– Georgia Statute: O.C.G.A § 51-1-13 also covers assault.
– Definition: The intentional confinement of a person without legal authority or the person’s consent.
– Case: Wallace v. Kato addresses the limitations period for false imprisonment.
– Georgia Statute: O.C.G.A § 51-7-20 defines false imprisonment as the unlawful detention of the person of another, for any length of time, whereby such person is deprived of his personal liberty.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED):
– Definition: The intentional conduct that is so outrageous that it causes severe emotional distress to the plaintiff.
– Georgia Statute: O.C.G.A § 51-12-6 covers the intentional infliction of emotional distress, providing for the recovery of damages for mental anguish.
Trespass to Land:
– Definition: The intentional and unauthorized entry onto land in possession of another.
– Case: Dougherty v. Stepp is an early case that helped define trespass to land.
– Georgia Statute: O.C.G.A § 51-9-1 defines trespass.
Trespass to Chattels and Conversion:
– Trespass to Chattels: Intentionally interfering with a plaintiff’s right to possession of personal property.
– Conversion: An intentional exercise of dominion or control over another’s personal property that so seriously interferes with the right of another to control it that the actor may justly be required to pay the other the full value of the property.
– Georgia Statute: O.C.G.A § 51-10-1 provides that the owner of personalty is entitled to its possession. Any deprivation of possession is a tort for which an action lies.
Negligence involves the failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation.
– Definition: An obligation to conform to a particular standard of conduct toward another.
– Case: Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. illustrates the concept of duty and its limits based on foreseeability.
– Definition: The failure to conform to the required standard.
– Georgia Specific: Georgia follows the comparative negligence rule, where recovery is reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to the plaintiff but barred only if the plaintiff is 50% or more responsible (O.C.G.A § 51-12-33).
– Comprises two parts: actual cause (cause in fact) and proximate cause (legal cause).
– Case: Anns v. Merton London Borough Council is a classic case for understanding causation.
– Definition: A compensatory sum awarded to the plaintiff to make them whole.
– Georgia Specific: Under O.C.G.A § 51-12-4, damages are given as compensation for injury; vindictive or punitive damages are only given in cases where the defendant’s actions show willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.
Defenses to Negligence:
– Comparative Negligence: As mentioned above, a plaintiff’s recovery is diminished in proportion to their fault but is not barred unless they are equally responsible or more responsible for the harm.
– Assumption of Risk: A plaintiff’s voluntary exposure to a known danger may preclude or reduce recovery.
Strict liability imposes legal responsibility for damages or injury even if the person found strictly liable was not at fault or negligent.
– Georgia follows strict liability for defective products, making a manufacturer liable for any injury caused by a defective product that was not altered or changed from the time of sale (O.C.G.A § 51-1-11).
– Key concepts include manufacturing defects, design defects, and failure to warn.
Abnormally Dangerous Activities:
– Activities that carry an inherent risk of serious harm, regardless of the precautions taken, may result in strict liability for damages.
– Case: Rylands v. Fletcher is a seminal strict liability case involving abnormally dangerous activities.
– Definition: A false statement that injures a party’s reputation.
– Georgia Specific: O.C.G.A § 51-5-1 defines libel and slander and provides for the recovery of general and special damages.
Invasion of Privacy:
– There are four categories: intrusion upon seclusion, appropriation of name or likeness, public disclosure of private facts, and false light in the public eye.
– Georgia Case: Cabaniss v. Hipsley establishes the elements of invasion of privacy under Georgia law.
This study guide is a starting point for understanding torts in Georgia. It is essential to review lecture notes, read assigned cases in full, and understand how Georgia statutes may modify or expand upon common law principles. Always ensure that your study materials reflect the most current law as statutes and case law can evolve.