Texas Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts



Torts are civil wrongs recognized by law as grounds for a lawsuit. They result in an injury or harm constituting the basis for a claim by the injured party. While some torts are also crimes punishable with imprisonment, the primary aim of tort law is to provide relief for the damages incurred and deter others from committing the same harms.


Intentional torts require the actor to have a certain level of intent to commit an act that causes harm. They include battery, assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, trespass to land, and trespass to chattel.

2.1. Battery

Battery is an intentional and offensive or harmful contact with another person without consent.

Case: Leichtman v. WLW Jacor Communications, Inc. (1994) – The defendant blew cigar smoke into the plaintiff’s face intentionally. Using the issue-rule-application-conclusion (IRAC) method, the issue was whether the contact constituted battery. The rule defines battery as intentional harmful or offensive contact. The court applied this rule to find the defendant liable for battery as the contact was intentional and offensive.

2.2. Assault

Assault is an intentional act that creates a reasonable apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact in another person.

Case: Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Hill (1933) – The plaintiff was a woman who was improperly propositioned by the defendant’s employee. The issue was whether an assault had occurred. The rule is that an assault takes place when one intentionally causes apprehension of harmful or offensive contact. The court applied this rule and concluded that the defendant was liable for assault.


Negligence refers to a situation where the defendant’s action falls below the standard of care a reasonable person would have taken, leading to the harm of the plaintiff.

3.1. Duty of Care

This is the responsibility one person has to avoid causing harm to another.

Case: Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932) – The plaintiff found a decomposed snail in a bottle of ginger beer. The issue was whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. The rule is that a duty of care is owed when harm is foreseeable. The court applied this rule and concluded that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff.

3.2. Breach of Duty

Once the duty of care has been established, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached that duty.

Case: Blyth v. Birmingham Waterworks Co. (1856) – A water main burst, causing damage to the plaintiff’s property. The issue was whether there had been a breach of duty. The rule is that a breach occurs when one fails to act as a reasonable person would. The court applied this rule, concluding no breach occurred, as the defendant could not have anticipated the extreme weather causing the water main to burst.


Strict liability applies when the defendant takes an action that is inherently dangerous and cannot ever be undertaken safely, no matter what precautions the defendant takes.

Case: Rylands v. Fletcher (1868) – The defendant’s artificially created lake flooded the plaintiff’s coal mine. The issue was whether the defendant was liable even though he took measures to prevent damage. The rule is that a person who brings on his lands anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, is strictly liable. The court applied this rule and concluded the defendant was liable.


This refers to a manufacturer or seller being held liable for placing a defective product into the hands of a consumer.

Case: MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. (1916) – The plaintiff was injured when his car’s wheel collapsed. The issue was whether the defendant was liable. The rule is that a manufacturer owes a duty of care to those who might use its product. The court applied this rule and concluded that the defendant was liable.


In tort law, damages are awarded to a plaintiff who is injured by the actions of the defendant. There are three types: compensatory, nominal, and punitive.

Case: BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore (1996) – The plaintiff was awarded a large sum in punitive damages for a minor defect in his new car. The issue was whether the damages were excessive. The rule is that punitive damages must be reasonable and proportionate to the harm suffered. The court applied this rule and concluded that the damages were excessive.

In conclusion, this study guide should provide a comprehensive understanding of Texas Tort law, enriched by case examples and legal principles. However, it is important to read and understand cases thoroughly for a full understanding of the law.

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