Kansas Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

Kansas Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

Introduction to Torts

  • Definition: A tort is a civil wrong (other than breach of contract) that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act.
  • Purpose: The primary aims of tort law are to provide relief to injured parties for harms caused by others, to impose liability on parties responsible for the harm, and to deter others from committing harmful acts.

Intentional Torts

  • Battery: Intentional and harmful or offensive contact with another person without consent.
  • Assault: Intentional act causing another to apprehend imminent harmful or offensive contact.
  • False Imprisonment: Intentionally confining a person within fixed boundaries without lawful privilege.
  • Trespass to Land: Intentional entry onto land in possession of another without lawful privilege.
  • Trespass to Chattels: Intentionally interfering with another person’s use or possession of personal property.
  • Conversion: Intentional exercise of dominion or control over another’s personal property that seriously interferes with their right of possession.

Case Law Example:
Vosburg v. Putney (1891): An early case establishing the principle that liability for battery does not depend on the malevolence of the act, but on whether it was intentional and unauthorized.
Issue: Is a defendant liable for battery if the initial act was not intended to harm?
Rule: Intentional, unlawful contact constitutes battery, regardless of the intent to harm.
Application: The defendant intentionally kicked the plaintiff, although without intent to harm. The contact was unauthorized and therefore constituted battery.
Conclusion: The court found the defendant liable for battery.


  • Duty: The legal obligation to conform to a standard of conduct to protect others from unreasonable risks.
  • Breach: A failure to meet the standard of care.
  • Causation: The breach must cause the plaintiff’s injury. This includes both actual cause (’cause in fact’) and proximate cause (legal cause).
  • Damages: Actual injury or loss suffered by the plaintiff.

Case Law Example:
Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. (1928): A foundational case in establishing the concept of proximate cause.
Issue: Does the defendant owe a duty of care to the plaintiff if the harm was not foreseeable?
Rule: A defendant owes a duty of care only to those who could be foreseeably harmed by the defendant’s conduct.
Application: The harm to the plaintiff was not a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions.
Conclusion: The court ruled the defendant did not owe a duty to the plaintiff.

Strict Liability

  • Abnormally Dangerous Activities: Liability is imposed for damages caused by certain activities that are so dangerous that liability will attach regardless of the level of care exercised.
  • Wild Animals: Owners are strictly liable for harm caused by wild animals they keep.

Case Law Example:
Rylands v. Fletcher (1868): A landmark English case, often cited in U.S. law, that established the principle of strict liability for non-natural use of land.
Issue: Are defendants liable for harm caused by the non-natural use of their land, even without negligence?
Rule: When a person brings onto his land something that can cause harm if it escapes, he is strictly liable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape.
Application: The defendants’ reservoir flooded the plaintiff’s mines, constituting a non-natural use of their land.
Conclusion: The court found the defendants strictly liable.

Products Liability

  • Manufacturing Defects: When the product departs from its intended design and as a result is unreasonably dangerous.
  • Design Defects: When the product’s design is inherently dangerous or defective.
  • Warning Defects: When the product lacks adequate instructions or warnings, rendering it unreasonably dangerous.

Case Law Example:
Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963): One of the first cases to establish strict liability in tort for defective products.
Issue: Is a manufacturer strictly liable for injuries caused by a defective product?
Rule: A manufacturer is liable for injuries caused by a defect in the product that existed when it left the manufacturer’s control, regardless of negligence.
Application: The defective design of a power tool caused injury to the plaintiff.
Conclusion: The court imposed strict liability on the manufacturer.

Defenses to Torts

  • Consent: The plaintiff consented to the act that resulted in harm.
  • Self-Defense: The defendant acted to protect themselves from harm.
  • Defense of Others: The defendant acted to protect another person from harm.
  • Defense of Property: The defendant acted to protect their property.
  • Necessity: The defendant acted out of a necessity to prevent a greater harm.
  • Contributory Negligence: The plaintiff contributed to their own harm by failing to take proper care (not widely applied, as most jurisdictions use comparative negligence).
  • Comparative Negligence: The plaintiff’s damages are reduced by their own percentage of fault.
  • Assumption of Risk: The plaintiff voluntarily assumed the known risks associated with an activity.

Case Law Example:
Comparative Negligence is codified in Kansas Statutes Annotated (K.S.A.) 60-258a. If a party is found to be 50% or more at fault, they cannot recover damages.


  • Compensatory Damages: Intended to compensate the plaintiff for actual losses suffered.
    • Special Damages: Quantifiable losses such as medical expenses, lost wages.
    • General Damages: Non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, emotional distress.
  • Punitive Damages: Intended to punish the defendant for particularly egregious conduct and to deter similar conduct in the future (not available in all cases).

Tort Reform

  • Kansas has enacted several tort reform measures to limit liability and damages in tort cases, which may include caps on damages and changes to rules regarding joint and several liabilities.


This study guide covers the major concepts of tort law that are likely to be tested in a 1L final exam, with an emphasis on principles that are particularly relevant to the state of Kansas. Students should review these concepts in detail, study applicable cases, and understand how Kansas law may differ from the general principles of tort law.

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