Washington Law School 1L Study Guide for Torts


Torts are wrongful acts that lead to injury or harm, and result in civil legal liability. The goal of tort law is to redress a wrongful act or injury suffered by an individual.


A. Battery
Battery is the intentional harmful or offensive contact with the person of another. The intent required for battery is purpose or knowledge that harmful or offensive contact is substantially certain to occur.
– Case: White v. University of Idaho: The plaintiff, a student, was injured in a chemistry lab and sued the university for battery. The court ruled there was no battery as there was no intent to harm.

B. Assault
Assault is the intentional creation of a reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. The intent required for assault is purpose or knowledge that assault is substantially certain to occur.
– Case: State v. Byrd: The defendant threatened to hit the plaintiff with a closed fist. The court found that this constituted an assault as it met the elements of an intentional tort.

C. False Imprisonment
False Imprisonment is the intentional confinement of another person within boundaries defined by the defendant.
– Case: State v. Shannon: The defendant locked the plaintiff in a room without her consent. The court found this to be false imprisonment.


A. Duty
The defendant owes a duty to conform to a specific standard of conduct to protect the plaintiff against unreasonable risks of injury.
– Case: Palsgraf v. Long Island RR Co.: A railroad company was not held liable for the plaintiff’s injury because the company could not have foreseen the risk to the plaintiff.

B. Breach
A breach is the defendant’s failure to conform to the required standard of conduct.
– Case: Vaughan v. Menlove: The defendant’s failure to properly stack hay, resulting in a fire, was found to be a breach of duty.

C. Causation
Causation in fact (actual cause) and proximate cause (legal cause) are both necessary for a finding of negligence.
– Case: Hartman v. State: The defendant’s negligent operation of a ferry was found to be the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.

D. Damages
Damage is the actual loss or harm suffered by the plaintiff.
– Case: McDougald v. Garber: The court held that the plaintiff could recover damages for pain and suffering.


Strict liability is the legal responsibility for damages or injury, whether the person found strictly liable was at fault or not.

  • Case: Siegler v. Kuhlman: The court upheld strict liability for harm caused by a dog that had previously been known to be dangerous.


A. Contributory Negligence
If the plaintiff’s own negligence played a part in causing the plaintiff’s harm, the plaintiff cannot recover damages.
– Case: Foss v. Kincade: The plaintiff’s claim was barred due to contributory negligence.

B. Comparative Negligence
The plaintiff’s damages are reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s own negligence.
– Case: Godfrey v. State: The court applied comparative negligence, reducing the plaintiff’s recovery by the percentage of fault attributed to the plaintiff.

C. Assumption of Risk
The plaintiff knowingly and willingly undertook an activity that has an obvious risk of harm.
– Case: Gregor v. Argenot Great Central Insurance Co.: The court found the plaintiff had assumed risk by engaging in a dangerous activity.

This study guide provides an overview of important tort concepts, cases, and laws in Washington. But it is not exhaustive and should be used in conjunction with class notes, textbooks, and legal research tools. Good luck with your studies.

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