North Dakota Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

North Dakota Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

I. Introduction to Torts

Torts are civil wrongs that allow the injured party (plaintiff) to obtain a remedy in the form of damages from the person who has caused harm (defendant). In North Dakota, as in other jurisdictions, tort law aims to provide relief for damages incurred and deter others from committing similar harms.

II. Intentional Torts

A. Battery
– Definition: Intentional infliction of harmful or offensive contact with another’s person.
– Case: Fisher v. Carrouth (ND 1989) – Court held that any contact, if it is offensive and intentional, can constitute a battery.
– Elements: (1) Intent, (2) Harmful or offensive contact, (3) Causation.

B. Assault
– Definition: Intentional act creating a reasonable apprehension in another of an immediate harmful or offensive contact.
– Case: Rasmuson v. Walker (ND 1997) – Court affirmed that words alone may not constitute assault but can negate the reasonable apprehension of harm.
– Elements: (1) Intent, (2) Reasonable apprehension, (3) Immediate harmful or offensive contact.

C. False Imprisonment
– Definition: Intentional confinement of another person within boundaries fixed by the defendant.
– Elements: (1) Intent, (2) Confinement, (3) Awareness of confinement by the plaintiff or harm.

D. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)
– Definition: Intentional or reckless conduct that is extreme and outrageous, causing severe emotional distress.
– Case: Muchow v. Lindblad (ND 1984) – Demonstrated that the conduct must be extreme and outrageous beyond the bounds of decency.
– Elements: (1) Extreme and outrageous conduct, (2) Intent or recklessness, (3) Causation, (4) Severe emotional distress.

III. Negligence

A. Duty
– Definition: Legal obligation to conform to a standard of conduct to protect others from unreasonable risks.
– Case: Barsness v. General Diesel & Equipment Co. (ND 1997) – Court highlighted the duty of care in the context of product liability.
– Elements: (1) Duty of care, (2) Foreseeability of harm.

B. Breach
– Definition: Failure to conform to the standard of care.
– Case: Bjerke v. D.T. Read Steel Co. (ND 1995) – Court dealt with the breach of duty in the context of product liability.
– Elements: (1) Standard of care, (2) Deviation from the standard.

C. Causation
– Definition: The act must be the proximate cause of the harm.
– Case: Vanover v. Kansas City Life Insurance Co. (ND 1992) – The court held that the defendant’s conduct must be a substantial factor in bringing about the harm.
– Elements: (1) Cause in fact (But-for test or substantial factor test), (2) Proximate cause.

D. Damages
– Definition: Compensatory relief for the harms suffered by the plaintiff.
– Case: Halvorson v. North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance (ND 2008) – Addressed issues of damages and compensability.
– Elements: (1) Actual harm, (2) Quantifiable loss.

IV. Defenses to Negligence

A. Comparative Negligence
– North Dakota follows a modified comparative fault system (NDCC 32-03.2-02).
– Plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault unless they are more at fault than the defendant(s).

B. Assumption of Risk
– Definition: Plaintiff’s voluntary consent to a known danger.
– Elements: (1) Knowledge of the risk, (2) Voluntary acceptance of the risk.

C. Contributory Negligence
– No longer a complete bar to recovery in North Dakota due to the adoption of comparative negligence.

V. Strict Liability

A. Abnormally Dangerous Activities
– Definition: Liability for damages caused by activities that are inherently dangerous and cannot be made completely safe.
– Elements: (1) Activity creates a foreseeable and highly significant risk of harm, (2) Activity is not common usage.

B. Product Liability
– Definition: Liability of manufacturers and sellers for harm caused by defective products.
– Case: Oanes v. Westgo, Inc. (ND 1982) – The court discussed strict liability in the context of defective product design.
– Elements: (1) Defective product, (2) Causation, (3) Harm.

VI. Vicarious Liability

  • Definition: Imposes liability on one person for the tortious conduct of another, typically based on a relationship between the two.
  • Case: Snyder v. North Dakota Workmen’s Compensation Bureau (ND 1988) – Discussed the concept of vicarious liability in employment.
  • Elements: (1) Relationship (e.g., employer-employee), (2) Tort committed in the scope of that relationship.

VII. Damages in Tort Law

A. Compensatory Damages
– Definition: Money awarded to compensate for actual losses (both economic and non-economic).
– Economic: Medical bills, lost wages, etc.
– Non-economic: Pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc.

B. Punitive Damages
– Definition: Damages intended to punish the defendant and deter future misconduct.
– NDCC 32-03.2-11 caps the amount of punitive damages a plaintiff can recover.

VIII. Conclusion

This study guide provides a broad overview of tort law principles relevant to North Dakota. Students should familiarize themselves with the specific cases, statutes, and nuances of North Dakota law to prepare effectively for their final semester exam in Torts. Additionally, it is important to understand the application of these principles and how they interact in complex legal scenarios.

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