Minnesota Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

Minnesota Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

I. Introduction to Torts
Torts are civil wrongs that cause someone to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the wrongful act. The primary aims of tort law are to provide relief to injured parties, impose liability on parties responsible for the harm, and deter others from committing harmful acts.

II. Intentional Torts
Intentional torts are wrongful acts done with the intent of bringing about a foreseeable consequence.
A. Battery – Intentional and harmful or offensive contact with another person without consent.
Case: Fisher v. Carrousel Motor Hotel, Inc.
IRAC Summary: The plaintiff’s plate was snatched from his hand at a buffet by an employee, causing embarrassment but no physical harm. Issue: Is physical harm necessary for battery? Rule: Battery requires intentional and harmful or offensive contact, not necessarily harm. Analysis: Offensive contact was made without consent. Conclusion: The plaintiff won compensatory damages for battery despite no physical harm.
B. Assault – The act of creating apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.
Case: Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Hill
IRAC Summary: A clerk reached for a customer suggesting assault. Issue: Does the act of reaching constitute assault? Rule: Assault occurs when one intentionally causes apprehension of imminent harmful contact. Conclusion: The court found for the plaintiff, confirming that the act of reaching could create apprehension.

C. False Imprisonment – The intentional confinement of a person without legal authority or the person’s consent.
Case: Harden v. Harleysville Insurance Co.
IRAC Summary: The plaintiff was detained by a store employee on suspicion of shoplifting. Issue: Was the detention lawful? Rule: A person may be liable for false imprisonment if they unlawfully detain another. Analysis: The employee lacked reasonable cause and duration of confinement. Conclusion: The court found for the plaintiff due to unlawful detention.

D. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) – Intentional acts that are extreme and outrageous, causing severe emotional distress.
Case: Hubbard v. United Press International, Inc.
IRAC Summary: The plaintiff was subjected to extreme and outrageous conduct by his employer. Issue: Does the conduct constitute IIED? Rule: Liability for IIED requires extreme and outrageous conduct with intent to cause severe emotional distress. Analysis: The employer’s conduct was considered extreme and outrageous. Conclusion: The plaintiff was awarded damages.

E. Trespass to Land – The intentional and unauthorized entry onto land in possession of another.
Case: Rogers v. Board of Road Com’rs for Kent County
IRAC Summary: The defendant altered the natural flow of water onto the plaintiff’s land. Issue: Can altering the natural flow of water constitute trespass? Rule: Intentional invasion of land includes physically entering or causing a thing or third party to enter. Analysis: The defendant’s actions caused water to enter, constituting trespass. Conclusion: The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

F. Trespass to Chattels and Conversion – Intentional interference with the plaintiff’s right of possession to personal property (trespass to chattels) or the intentional exercise of dominion or control over the plaintiff’s personal property (conversion).
Case: Compuserve Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc.
IRAC Summary: Cyber Promotions sent unsolicited emails to Compuserve customers causing server harm. Issue: Does sending unwanted emails constitute trespass to chattels? Rule: Trespass to chattels can occur when a defendant intentionally uses or intermeddles with the plaintiff’s chattel. Conclusion: The court held Cyber Promotions liable for trespass to chattels.

III. Negligence
Negligence is the breach of a duty to take reasonable care, which results in damage to another party.
A. Duty – The obligation to adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing acts that could foreseeably harm others.
B. Breach of Duty – Failure to meet the standard of care.
C. Causation – The requirement that the breach of duty be the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages.
D. Damages – Actual harm resulting from the breach of duty.
E. Defenses to Negligence – Contributory negligence, comparative negligence, assumption of risk, etc.

IV. Strict Liability
Strict liability holds a defendant liable for damages without a requirement of fault, negligence, or intention.
A. Products Liability – Imposes liability on manufacturers and sellers for defective products.
B. Abnormally Dangerous Activities – Activities that inherently carry a risk of serious harm even when reasonable care is taken.

V. Defenses to Torts
A. Consent – When a plaintiff consents to the act that damages them, it can act as a defense.
B. Self-Defense – The use of reasonable force to protect oneself from harm.
C. Defense of Others – Similar to self-defense, but in defense of another person.
D. Defense of Property – The right to use reasonable force to defend one’s property.

VI. Damages
A. Compensatory Damages – Meant to compensate the victim for loss.
B. Punitive Damages – Designed to punish the defendant and deter future wrongful conduct.

VII. Vicarious Liability
Vicarious liability involves holding one person or entity liable for the actions of another, based on the relationship between the two.

VIII. Workers’ Compensation
Minnesota’s workers’ compensation system provides benefits to workers injured on the job, regardless of fault, but often limits the employee’s ability to sue the employer.

IX. No-Fault Automobile Insurance
Under Minnesota law, no-fault automobile insurance provides for the payment of certain benefits regardless of who caused the accident.

This study guide outlines the key concepts and case laws relevant to a 1L Torts class and should be used in conjunction with class notes and textbooks to prepare for the final semester exam in Minnesota.

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