The law of tort governs the actions of the citizen towards his fellow citizen, or the actions of a company to a person or fellow business, in the absence of illegal conduct or contractual remedies. Present in most legal systems in some form, the law of tort covers civil “wrongs”, where one party has suffered damages as a consequence of another’s actions. Let us preface that there are allowed damages that one is actually allowed. An example of this:  One company undercutting a competitor to his hinderance. Tort is concerned largely with prohibited or negligent behavior that can be connected towards one specific party.  This will open the path for a judgement of compensation or damages. One major point of criticism and debate in the area of tort is that of indeterminate or indiscriminate liability, which is designed to minimize the potential for floodgate liability.

Tort lawTort establishes a sum of criteria, which must be satisfied before a party could be accountable for his negligent actions. These are naturally strict to avoid the potential financial crisis arising from a “sue happy society”. Additionally, there is a pressure to encourage risk to a certain extent in order to promote business growth, and to avoid easily conceding liability.  This will stimulate “normal” daily activities. In a weak tort system, paranoia hinders economic growth and creates a multitude of socio-economic problems. From this, the conditions of indeterminate liability have arisen, as well as numerous other high standards that must be fulfilled before a court will impose liability and the corresponding financial repercussions.

Imagine if you will, where a protruding paving stone causes an actual risk of injury to the public at large. Because there is a potential for such a widespread liability, courts around the world impose various mechanisms to rule out claims of any sort to avoid the potential for ruining local authorities and in the interests of “common sense”. In this case, the liability for the victim’s injury would be too “remote.” Because of this, no liability will be admitted. In other words, there is a requirement that the potentially liable party should have had a direct impact on the specific victims injury.

Another argument against the principle of precluding liability on this basis is that it encourages “bigger” tort. In this sense, it ensures more vigilance towards situations where a specific person may be injured, but also encourages a lack of consideration for safety in situations where hundreds or potentially thousands may be subject to injury, given the unlikely chance of successful legal challenge. This produces an obvious social problem, which must be weighed by legislatures and courts in order to solve the problem. As this area of the law continues to develop, the importance of finding a workable solution to this situation will become more apparent.

Ultimately, in the above scenario, an injury from the paving stone could happen to anyone who is using the walkway.  This would not be a good candidate for a case, because the courts have to look at cases where individuals are legitimately injured.  Not just anyone who feels that they could be injured. This would help curb the apparent inequity in tort claims where liability is ruled out by virtue of its wide-ranging effects.