Tort law is a fundamental part of the common law. Virtually no other law comes into contact with us so frequently, the exception being contract. We invite you to discuss whether there are any compelling arguments that tort law is nearly limitless in application.
One might argue that tort is akin to the 'garbage bin' of legal actions. Anything that does not fall within any other category of law may well be covered under tort. After all, the very first action for tort - in the case of Donoghue v Stevenson (1932) was simply an incident of some lady finding a dead snail in her drink! In the context of law, ask yourself: why is it wrong? There was no contract to begin with (as the drink was purchased by her friend), and neither does a dead snail in the drink constitute a criminal action (though with laws regarding consumer safety in recent times, the issue of crime might come up), obviously the various different areas such as land law, trust etc. becomes a moot point.
Going back to why is it wrong, Lord Atkin simply relied on the biblical phrase that 'one should love thy neighbour'. This has now become what is known as the neighbour principle. Just like that, we see the picture more clearly: it becomes somewhat like a moral obligation. And as humans coexisting with each other in this tiny world, it is evident that our actions must not only be criminal, but we must also remember not to be careless and brazen when going about our daily business.
We have seen various cases where tort has come to save the day: from snails in drinks to unprofessional doctors; from dying orchids to a pot-clanging neighbour; from seeing your house burn down in flames to water leaks. All these seem to have arisen from the simplest of things, and yet, they are all rooted in the neighbour principle. Seeing as there are countless possibilities, would it then be correct to say that tort has no limit?
Our answer would be a conditional yes. With rapidly evolving social climates and the boom of technology, it seems inevitable that tort will begin evolving. The neighbour principle is arguably the strongest principle of law, save for the basic requirements of forming a contract (offer, acceptance, consideration etc), and it seems highly likely that in the near future, we will have new branches of tort that may evolve to deal with the coming of the times.
We will leave it at that for our fellow readers to ponder upon. Those who have not downloaded our app on Tort Law are advised to do so.
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Till next time,
The SS Team