South Dakota Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

Torts law in South Dakota involves civil wrongs that result in personal injury or harm and is based on the principle that people are liable for the consequences of their conduct. It sets forth legal standards for determining whether a particular action or inaction constitutes a tort.

Key Concepts:
– Negligence
– Strict Liability
– Torts Intentional

The most common type of tort is negligence. This involves a person’s failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in the same situation.

Key Cases:
– Palsgraf v. Long Island RR Co.: The defendant’s conduct might be negligent, but if it was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, it did not breach a duty to the plaintiff. This case established the foreseeability test that is still used today
– Barger v. Charles Machine Works, Inc: This case highlighted the South Dakota standard for negligence, emphasizing that negligence is determined on a case-by-case basis, examining the totality of circumstances.

Strict Liability involves holding a defendant liable for harm without a finding of negligence. It is often applied to activities that are inherently dangerous.

Key Cases:
– Rylands v Fletcher: This British case is widely used in American tort law and established the rule of strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities.
– Davis v. Baugh Industrial Contractors: This case held that a party engaged in inherently dangerous activities can be held strictly liable for any damage caused.

Intentional torts involve deliberate acts that cause harm to another individual. Examples include assault, battery, false imprisonment, trespass, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Key Cases:
– Bird v Jones: This case introduced the concept of false imprisonment, delineating the distinction between mere obstruction and confinement.
– Garratt v Dailey: This case set precedent for battery, establishing that the intent to cause harmful contact is necessary for a battery charge.

Defamation involves making false statements that harm the reputation of an individual. In South Dakota, the plaintiff must prove that the statement was false, defamatory, and communicated to a third party, causing harm to the plaintiff.

Key Case:
– New York Times Co. v. Sullivan: This case established the “actual malice” standard which must be met for public officials or public figures to succeed in a defamation lawsuit.

Product Liability involves the liability of a manufacturer or seller for selling a defective product. South Dakota applies the doctrine of strict liability to product liability cases.

Key Cases:
– Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc: This case established strict product liability, holding manufacturers liable for defects in their products that cause injury.
– Jahnig v. Coisman: Established that South Dakota uses a risk-utility test in product liability cases.

Medical malpractice involves a healthcare provider’s failure to meet the standard of care when treating a patient, resulting in harm to the patient.

Key Cases:
– Canterbury v. Spence: This case established the patient’s right to informed consent, stating that doctors must disclose all risks of a procedure that might affect a patient’s decision.
– Helling v. Carey: This case established that the standard of care for negligence in medical malpractice cases is what a reasonable, prudent practitioner in the same specialty would have done in the same or similar circumstances.

Tort reform refers to changes made in the civil justice system that aim to reduce the ability of victims to bring tort litigation or to reduce damages they can receive. South Dakota has implemented several tort reform measures, including caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.

Key Case:
– Daugaard v. Baltic Co-op Bldg. Supply: This South Dakota case dealt with the state’s cap on punitive damages, upholding the constitutionality of the limit.

Understanding these key concepts, case law, and South Dakota specific laws are crucial for a comprehensive understanding of torts for a 1L law school student. This study guide provides a strong foundation for preparing for a final semester exam in torts.

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