Tennessee Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

Title: Tennessee Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts

I. Introduction to Torts

Torts are civil wrongs recognized by law as grounds for a lawsuit. They result in an injury or harm constituting a legal liability. In Tennessee, torts can be either intentional (intentional torts) or due to negligence (negligent torts).

II. Intentional Torts

Intentional torts require an intended act by a wrongdoer. Key intentional torts are assault, battery, trespass, false imprisonment, conversion, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A. Assault and Battery

Assault is the intentional causing of apprehension of harmful or offensive contact. Battery is the unlawful application of force to another resulting in either bodily injury or offensive conduct.

Case: Vines v. Champion, (1980) – The Tennessee court held that intent is paramount in assault and battery cases. In this case, the defendant intentionally fired a rifle to scare the plaintiff but ended up wounding him.

B. Trespass

Trespass involves entering another person’s property without permission.

Case: Prosser v. Parsons (1960) – This case established that even unintentional trespass can be actionable in Tennessee if it causes harm.

C. False Imprisonment

False imprisonment is the intentional unlawful confinement of a person against their will.

Case: Lane v. Walmart Stores, Inc. (1998) – This case highlighted the issue of probable cause in false imprisonment cases. It set a precedent that store owners in Tennessee should have probable cause to detain suspected shoplifters.

D. Conversion

Conversion is the act of intentionally exercising control over someone else’s property.

Case: Hodge v. Craig (2012) – This case clarified the standard for conversion in Tennessee. It stated that the defendant must knowingly exercise dominion or control over the property.

III. Negligence

Negligence is conduct that falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm.

A. Duty of Care

The principle that people must exercise reasonable care when they can foreseeably cause harm to others.

Case: Hale v. Ostrow (2006) – This case affirmed that the duty of care applies in Tennessee when it is foreseeable that a defendant’s actions could cause harm.

B. Breach of Duty

Occurs when one person or company has a duty of care toward another person or company, but fails to live up to that standard.

Case: West v. East Tennessee Pioneer Oil Co. (2003) – This case clarified that a breach occurs when the defendant’s actions fall below the standard of care.

C. Causation

Refers to the fact that the defendant’s failure to meet the standard of care caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Case: Kilpatrick v. Bryant (1999) – This case established in Tennessee that a plaintiff must prove both actual causation (“but-for” the defendant’s actions, the plaintiff would not have been injured) and proximate causation (the plaintiff’s injury was a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions).

D. Damages

The harm suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s negligence.

Case: Meals ex rel. Meals v. Ford Motor Co. (2013) – This case confirmed that a plaintiff in Tennessee can recover compensatory damages (for actual losses) and, in some cases, punitive damages (to punish the defendant).

IV. Defenses to Torts

Defenses to torts include consent, self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, necessity, assumption of risk, and contributory/comparative negligence.

A. Comparative Negligence

In Tennessee, the doctrine of comparative negligence applies. This means that if a plaintiff is partially responsible for their own injuries, their damage award may be reduced.

Case: McIntyre v. Balentine (1992) – This case established the comparative negligence standard in Tennessee, which replaced the previous rule of contributory negligence.

V. Strict Liability

Strict liability holds a defendant liable for committing an action, regardless of what their intent or mental state was when committing the action.

Case: Jones v. Mercer (2012) – The Tennessee Supreme Court applied strict liability in a case involving an ultra-hazardous activity, setting the precedent that strict liability could apply even without negligence.

VI. Tort Damages

In Tennessee, plaintiffs can recover compensatory damages, which include both economic and non-economic damages. In some cases, they can also recover punitive damages.

Case: Hodges v. S.C. Toof & Co. (1992) – The Tennessee Supreme Court clarified which factors can be considered in awarding punitive damages.

VII. Tort Reform

Tennessee’s tort reform legislation, the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011, places a cap on non-economic and punitive damages.

Overall, the tort law in Tennessee encompasses a diverse range of cases from negligence to intentional torts. Understanding key concepts, cases, and applicable laws are crucial to succeed in your Torts class.

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