Maine Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

Maine Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

I. Introduction to Torts
A. Definition
– A tort is a civil wrong, other than breach of contract, for which the law provides a remedy.

B. Purpose of Tort Law
– To provide relief to injured parties for harms caused by others.
– To impose liability on parties responsible for the harm.
– To deter others from committing harmful acts.

II. Intentional Torts
A. Battery
– Definition: Intentional infliction of harmful or offensive contact with another’s person.
– Case Law: Fisher v. Carrousel Motor Hotel, Inc. (1967): A restaurant manager grabbed a plate from a customer’s hand, which was considered offensive contact.
– Elements: Intent, contact, harm or offense.

B. Assault
– Definition: Intentional act causing another to apprehend an imminent harmful or offensive contact.
– Elements: Intent, apprehension of imminent contact, awareness.
– Case Law: I de S and Wife v. W de S (1348): Early case recognizing the tort of assault.

C. False Imprisonment
– Definition: Intentional confinement of another without lawful privilege and against their consent.
– Elements: Intent, confinement, lack of consent.
– Case Law: Hardy v. LaBelle’s Distributing Co. (1977): A store detective detaining a customer without proper justification constitutes false imprisonment.

D. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)
– Definition: Intentional or reckless conduct that is extreme and outrageous, causing severe emotional distress.
– Elements: Intent or recklessness, extreme and outrageous conduct, causation, severe emotional distress.
– Case Law: Harris v. Jones (1977): Establishes the standard for what constitutes extreme and outrageous conduct.

E. Trespass to Land
– Definition: Intentional entry onto the land of another without permission.
– Elements: Intent, entry, land of another.
– Case Law: Dougherty v. Stepp (1835): Any unauthorized entry onto another’s land is a trespass.

F. Trespass to Chattels
– Definition: Intentionally interfering with another’s use or possession of a chattel.
– Elements: Intent, interference, chattel.
– Case Law: CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc. (1997): Unauthorized use of an email server was considered trespass to chattels.

G. Conversion
– Definition: Intentional exercise of control over another’s chattel which 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 chattel.
– Elements: Intent, exercise of control, serious interference, chattel.
– Case Law: Poggi v. Scott (1914): Conversion occurs when one wrongfully exercises dominion over the property of another.

III. Defenses to Intentional Torts
A. Consent
– Voluntary agreement to the conduct or touching in question.
– Case Law: Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals, Inc. (1979): Consent implied in the context of a football game.

B. Self-Defense
– Use of reasonable force to prevent harm to oneself.
– Case Law: Courvoisier v. Raymond (1896): Self-defense justified when under reasonable belief of threat, even if the threat was a mistake.

C. Defense of Others
– Similar to self-defense but to protect a third party.
– Case Law: Estate of Ceballos v. Husk (1974): Extends the right of self-defense to the defense of others.

D. Defense of Property
– Use of reasonable force to protect one’s property from intrusion or trespass.
– Case Law: Katko v. Briney (1971): Use of deadly force to protect property is generally not permissible.

E. Necessity
– Conduct that would otherwise be a tort may be excused if the defendant can show the harm was done to prevent a more significant harm.
– Case Law: Vincent v. Lake Erie Transportation Co. (1910): A necessity defense can require payment for damages caused.

IV. Negligence
A. Duty
– The obligation to conform to a standard of conduct to protect others from unreasonable risks.
– Case Law: Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. (1928): Duty is owed to those who are reasonably foreseeable victims of one’s actions.

B. Breach
– The failure to conform to the required standard of conduct.
– Case Law: Vaughan v. Menlove (1837): The reasonable person standard is an objective one.

C. Causation
1. Actual Cause (Cause in Fact)
– The defendant’s conduct is a necessary condition for the occurrence of the harm.
– Case Law: But-for test established in Cork v. Kirby MacLean Ltd. (1952).

  1. Proximate Cause (Legal Cause)

– The extent to which, as a matter of policy, the defendant will be held liable for the consequences of his actions.
– Case Law: Wagon Mound No. 1 (1961): The harm must be reasonably foreseeable.

D. Damages
– Actual loss or harm suffered by the plaintiff.
– Case Law: McDougald v. Garber (1989): Damages must be compensatory and related to the harms caused by the breach of duty.

E. Defenses to Negligence
1. Comparative Negligence
– A plaintiff’s negligence reduces the damages that can be recovered proportionally to the plaintiff’s fault.
– Maine follows a modified comparative negligence rule with a 50% bar.
2. Assumption of Risk
– Plaintiff’s voluntary decision to encounter a known risk.
– Case Law: Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co. (1929): The plaintiff assumed the risk of injury when engaging in an activity that has obvious dangers.
3. Contributory Negligence (Not applicable in Maine)
– Plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to the harm, potentially barring recovery (Maine has abandoned this in favor of comparative negligence).

V. Strict Liability
A. Animals
– Owners are strictly liable for harm caused by abnormally dangerous domestic animals or wild animals kept as pets.
– Case Law: Rylands v. Fletcher (1868): Established strict liability for unnatural use of land.

B. Abnormally Dangerous Activities
– Liability for certain activities that pose a high risk of harm, regardless of the level of care exercised.
– Restatement (Second) of Torts §520 factors for abnormally dangerous activities.

VI. Product Liability
A. Strict Liability for Defective Products
– Manufacturers and sellers are strictly liable for injury caused by defective or unexpectedly dangerous products.
– Case Law: Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963): Established strict liability for manufacturers of defective products.

B. Defenses to Product Liability
– Assumption of risk, product misuse, and comparative fault may all serve as defenses.

VII. Damages in Tort Law
A. Compensatory Damages
– Intended to make the plaintiff whole by compensating for actual losses.
– Includes economic (medical expenses, lost wages) and non-economic damages (pain and suffering).

B. Punitive Damages
– Intended to punish the defendant and deter similar conduct.
– Awarded in cases of egregious wrongdoing where the defendant’s conduct was willful, wanton, or malicious.

C. Maine Tort Damages
– Maine has a statutory cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases (14 M.R.S. § 2-804).
– Punitive damages are allowed under Maine law but are limited to certain cases and must be proven by clear and convincing evidence (7 M.R.S. § 2401).

This guide provides an overview of the core concepts in tort law as it pertains to a 1L curriculum, with particular emphasis on aspects relevant to the state of Maine. It is crucial to complement this guide with class notes, case briefs, and statutory law to ensure a comprehensive understanding and preparation for a final semester exam.

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