Tort Reform

tort

tort, in law, the violation of some duty clearly set by law, not by a specific agreement between two parties, as in breach of contract. When such a duty is breached, the injured party has the right to institute suit for compensatory damages. Certain torts, such as nuisance, may be suppressed by injunction. Many crimes are also torts; burglary, for instance, often constitutes trespass.

The history of Anglo-American tort law can be traced back to the action for trespass to property or to the person. Not until the late 18th cent. was the currently observed distinction made between injury willfully inflicted and that which is unintentional. In the early 19th cent., negligence was distinguished as a separate tort, and it has come to supply a large portion of tortious litigation.

The general tendency today is to rule that the breach of any duty constitutes a tort, rather than to rule that an alleged tort must fit into some previously recognized variety, such as assault, false imprisonment, or libel. Some courts treat any willful unjustified injury as tortious, while others hold that the act must be defined as tortious by law, regardless of the perpetrator's motive. Torts that injure reputation or feelings are personal torts; those violating statutory rights are constitutional torts; those involving real or personal property are property torts. Property torts include several classes of torts, such as automobile accidents, negligence, product liability, and medical malpractice.

In some areas, tort liability can be assigned without a finding of fault, as in no-fault automobile insurance. In areas where the finding of fault remains crucial, and the awards of compensatory or punitive damages can be substantial, tort litigation can be time-consuming and costly. Its defenders claim tort litigation promotes safety and economic efficiency, while critics argue the process does little but raise insurance premiums while providing windfalls to a handful of lawyers. Efforts to reform tort law hope to set limits to damage settlements and to broaden no-fault statutes for use in alternative forms of litigation. In the 1990s many U.S. states, pressed chiefly by conservatives and business interests, passed laws limiting damages, but state courts have repeatedly voided these limits as violations of "open courts" guarantees in state constitutions.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Tort Law and the Public Interest: Competition, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare
Peter H. Schuck.
W.W. Norton, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Part III "Tort Reform"
The Problem of Tort Reform: Federalism and the Regulation of Lawyers
Gasaway, Robert R.
Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 25, No. 3, Summer 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Litigation Tariff: The Federalist Case for National Tort Reform
Abraham, Spencer.
Policy Review, No. 73, Summer 1995
Contingent Fees and Tort Reform: A Reassessment and Reality Check
Inselbuch, Elihu.
Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 64, No. 2-3, Spring-Summer 2001
Victory at Hand for GOP Tort Reform? Tort Reform and a National Asbestos Settlement Might Top the GOP Agenda, but Some Conservatives Worry That Limits on Lawsuits Will Weaken the Rights of States
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Insight on the News, February 2, 2004
The Good Guys: Tort Reformers Complain about "Frivolous" Lawsuits. but at a Time When Government Has Stopped Protecting Citizens, Trial Lawyers Have Become the Regulators of Last Resort
Mundy, Alicia.
The American Prospect, Vol. 15, No. 11, November 2004
Punitive Damages as Societal Damages
Sharkey, Catherine M.
The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 113, No. 2, November 2003
Unintended Consequences of Tort Reform: Rent Seeking in New York State's Structured Settlements Statutes
Spizman, Lawrence M.; Schmitt, Elizabeth Dunne.
Journal of Forensic Economics, Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
AICPA Announces Major Initiative to Strengthen Financial Reporting and Further Tort Reform Prospects
Miller, Stephen H.
Journal of Accountancy, Vol. 176, No. 2, August 1993
The Liability Crisis in the United States: Impact on the Accounting Profession
Cook, J. Michael; Freedman, Eugene M.; Groves, Ray J.; Madonna, Jon C.; O'Malley, Shaun F.; Weinbach, Lawrence A.
Journal of Accountancy, Vol. 174, No. 5, November 1992
Tort Reform Revolution
Andrews, Andrea R.; Simonetti, Gilbert, Jr.
Journal of Accountancy, Vol. 182, No. 3, September 1996
The Practice of Uncertainty: Voices of Physicians and Patients in Medical Malpractice Claims
Stephen L. Fielding.
Auburn House, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "The Defense of Wealth"
Medical Malpractice Law and Health Care Cost Containment: Lessons for Reformers from the Clash of Cultures
Frankel, Jonathan J.
The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 103, No. 5, March 1994
'Tis Better to Give Than to Receive: Charitable Donations of Medical Malpractice Punitive Damages
Miller, Nicholas M.
Journal of Law and Health, Vol. 12, No. 1, Spring 1997
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