New Mexico Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

New Mexico Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

I. Introduction to Torts
– Definition: A tort is a civil wrong, other than a breach of contract, for which the court will provide a remedy in the form of an action for damages.
– Purpose: To compensate victims for harms caused by the actions of others, to deter harmful conduct, and to vindicate rights.

II. Intentional Torts
1. Battery
– Definition: Intentional infliction of harmful or offensive contact with another’s person.
– Elements: Act, Intent, Causation, Harmful or Offensive Contact.

  1. Assault
    • Definition: Intentional creation of a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the victim of imminent harmful or offensive contact.
    • Elements: Act, Intent, Causation, Reasonable Apprehension of Immediate Harm.
  2. False Imprisonment
    • Definition: Intentional confinement or restraint of another person without lawful privilege and against their consent.
    • Elements: Act, Intent, Causation, Confinement.
  3. Trespass to Land
    • Definition: Intentional entry onto the land of another without lawful privilege.
    • Elements: Act, Intent, Causation, Unauthorized Entry.
  4. Trespass to Chattels
    • Definition: Intentionally interfering with another person’s use or possession of a chattel.
    • Elements: Act, Intent, Causation, Interference with Chattel.
  5. Conversion
    • Definition: Intentional exercise of dominion or control over a 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: Act, Intent, Causation, Serious Interference.

III. Negligence
1. Duty
– Definition: A legal obligation to conform to a standard of conduct for the protection of others against unreasonable risk.
– Standard of Care: The degree of care that would be exercised by a reasonably prudent person under the same or similar circumstances.
– Special Duties: Specific situations that modify the standard of care (e.g., children, professionals).

  1. Breach
    • Definition: The failure to adhere to the standard of care owed.
    • Tests for Breach: Reasonableness under the circumstances, custom, risk v. precaution analysis (Hand Formula).
  2. Causation
    • Actual Cause (Cause in Fact): The defendant’s conduct was a factual cause of the plaintiff’s harm.
    • Proximate Cause (Legal Cause): The defendant’s conduct is legally connected to the plaintiff’s harm.
  3. Damages
    • Definition: A compensable injury or loss suffered by the plaintiff.
    • Types: Economic (monetary losses), Non-Economic (pain and suffering), Punitive (punishment, rare in negligence).
  4. Defenses
    • Comparative Negligence: New Mexico follows a pure comparative negligence system, where the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault.
    • Assumption of Risk: Voluntary acceptance of a known risk.
    • Statute of Limitations: Limits the time period for a plaintiff to file a lawsuit.

IV. Strict Liability
– Liability without fault for abnormally dangerous activities, harm caused by wild animals, and defective products.

V. Products Liability
– Liability for harm caused by defective products, which can arise from design defects, manufacturing defects, and failure to warn.

VI. Defamation
– A false statement of fact that harms another’s reputation, with different rules for public figures and private individuals.

VII. Privacy Torts
– Invasion of privacy encompasses several distinct torts, including intrusion upon seclusion, appropriation of likeness, public disclosure of private facts, and false light.

VIII. Business Torts
– Torts that arise out of business transactions, such as fraud, interference with contractual relations, and interference with prospective economic advantage.

IX. Damages in Tort
– Compensatory: To make the plaintiff whole.
– Punitive: To punish and deter.

X. Case Law Review

Pino v. United States (D.N.M. 1998)
Issue: Whether the United States was liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the negligent acts of its employee during a government-sponsored event.
Rule: The government can be found liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the negligence of its employees if the employee was acting within the scope of their employment.
Analysis: The court looked at whether the negligent act occurred during the employee’s scope of employment, which was determined by factors such as intent, nature of the job, and time and space of the act.
Conclusion: The United States was held liable because the employee’s actions were within the scope of employment.

Scott v. Rizzo (N.M. 1980)
Issue: Whether the conduct of the defendant was a proximate cause of the injury sustained by the plaintiff.
Rule: A defendant’s actions are the proximate cause of an injury if the harm is a foreseeable result of the actions.
Analysis: The court considered whether the injury sustained was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s action.
Conclusion: The court found that the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

XI. New Mexico Specific Torts
New Mexico Tort Claims Act (NMTCA): A comprehensive statutory scheme governing liability and immunity for governmental entities and public employees in New Mexico.
Liability for Harm from Alcohol Consumption (Dram Shop Laws): New Mexico imposes liability on individuals and establishments that serve alcohol to intoxicated persons or minors who subsequently cause harm due to intoxication.

This study guide provides an overview of the main concepts in tort law, tailored to the specific context of New Mexico. It is essential for students to also study New Mexico statutes and case law to understand how these principles are applied within the state. Students should review the cases and statutes for in-depth knowledge and consult their course materials for a more detailed analysis.

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