New Hampshire Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

New Hampshire 1L Study Guide for Torts

I. Introduction to Torts

Torts law in New Hampshire, as in other jurisdictions, is primarily concerned with providing remedies to individuals who have suffered harm due to the wrongful conduct of others. The concept of a tort is based on the principle that individuals are liable for the consequences of their actions.

II. Intentional Torts

A. Battery

  • Definition: Intentional infliction of harmful or offensive contact.
  • Case Law: Fisher v. Carrousel Motor Hotel, Inc. establishes that even contact with an object closely associated with one’s body may constitute battery.

B. Assault

  • Definition: Intentional creation of a reasonable apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact.
  • Case Law: I de S and Wife v. W de S is an early case that helped distinguish assault from battery.

C. False Imprisonment

  • Definition: Intentional confinement of a person within fixed boundaries without lawful justification.
  • Case Law: Whittaker v. Sanford illustrates the concept of confinement without use of physical barriers.

D. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)

  • Definition: Intentional or reckless conduct that is extreme and outrageous, causing severe emotional distress.
  • Case Law: Harris v. Jones refined the standards for what constitutes “outrageous” conduct and “severe” emotional distress.

E. Trespass to Land

  • Definition: Intentional entry onto the land of another without permission or legal right.
  • Case Law: Rogers v. Board of Road Com’rs established the principle that entry need not cause damage to constitute trespass.

F. Trespass to Chattels and Conversion

  • Definition (Trespass to Chattels): Intentional interference with the use or possession of personal property.
  • Definition (Conversion): Intentional exercise of dominion or control over another’s personal property that so seriously interferes with their right of control that it warrants the payment of full value for the item.
  • Case Law: Kremen v. Cohen demonstrates the application of conversion to intangible property.

III. Negligence

A. Duty

  • Definition: The obligation to conform to a certain standard of conduct toward others.
  • Specifics: In New Hampshire, RSA 507:7-d establishes a standard of care for voluntary non-medical rescue.
  • Case Law: Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California established the duty to warn identifiable victims of foreseeable harm.

B. Breach

  • Definition: Failure to meet the standard of care.
  • Case Law: Vaughan v. Menlove introduced the “reasonable person” standard for determining breach.

C. Causation

  • Definition: The requirement that the breach of duty be closely related to the injury.
    1. Actual Cause (Factual Causation): “But for” the defendant’s act, the injury would not have occurred.
    2. Proximate Cause (Legal Causation): Limitation on liability based on foreseeability.
  • Case Law: Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. is the seminal case discussing proximate cause.

D. Damages

  • Definition: Compensable losses suffered by the plaintiff.
  • Specifics: New Hampshire follows the doctrine of modified comparative negligence (RSA 507:7-d), where the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault, provided it is not greater than 50%.

E. Defenses to Negligence

  • Contributory Negligence: Plaintiff’s own negligence contributing to the harm.
  • Comparative Negligence: Allocating fault between the parties.
  • Assumption of Risk: Plaintiff’s voluntary acceptance of a known risk.

IV. Strict Liability

A. Abnormally Dangerous Activities

  • Definition: Liability for harm that results from activities that carry a risk of serious harm, regardless of precautions.
  • Case Law: Rylands v. Fletcher established the classic rule for strict liability in abnormally dangerous activities.

B. Product Liability

  • Definition: Liability of manufacturers and sellers for harm caused by defective products.
  • Specifics: New Hampshire follows RSA 507:7-e for strict products liability, focusing on whether the product was unreasonably dangerous.

V. Defamation

A. Libel and Slander

  • Definition: False statements that harm another’s reputation.
  • Case Law: New York Times Co. v. Sullivan established the “actual malice” standard for public figures.

B. Defenses and Privileges

  • Truth: A statement that is true cannot be defamatory.
  • Privilege: Absolute or qualified immunity for certain communications.

VI. Privacy Torts

A. Intrusion upon Seclusion

  • Definition: Intentional intrusion, physically or otherwise, into the private affairs of another where the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
  • Case Law: Nader v. General Motors Corp. exemplifies intrusion upon seclusion.

B. Public Disclosure of Private Facts

  • Definition: Public disclosure of private, true information that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
  • Case Law: Sidis v. F-R Publishing Corporation illustrates the tension between privacy and freedom of the press.

C. False Light

  • Definition: Publicly placing someone in a false light that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
  • Case Law: Time, Inc. v. Hill addresses the requirement of actual malice in false light cases involving public figures.

D. Appropriation of Name or Likeness

  • Definition: Unauthorized use of a person’s name or likeness for commercial purposes.
  • Case Law: Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co. upheld the right to control the commercial use of one’s identity.

VII. Conclusion

For a comprehensive understanding of Torts for 1L students in New Hampshire, it is essential to not only memorize the core concepts and case law but also understand how they interact with state-specific statutes such as RSA 507:7-d and RSA 507:7-e. As you prepare for your final exam, focus on the IRAC method for analyzing case law, ensure you understand the policy rationales behind tort doctrines, and practice applying these principles to hypothetical scenarios that may reflect the unique aspects of New Hampshire law.

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