Tort – a wrongful (“tortious”) act that causes a private injury:

     This page is continued from Civil Law Self-Help Walkthrough >>>> Section 1:


     Both criminal acts and non-criminal acts have the potential to injure a person, property, and/or violate a legal right.  In such cases, an injured party may choose to file a claim, and if a settlement is not reached, they may choose to file a civil action in order to recover financial compensation (called damages) and/or to seek some sort of non-monetary, practical solution in order to prevent and/or recover from the injury (i.e. requesting a restraining order, having property returned, amending government policy, etc etc etc).  A non-monetary remedy is known as an equitable remedy, which may be enforced via a court order known as an injunction

      Definitions for “tort” are located below, followed by a list of the many various types of torts.  Scroll down to find which types of torts you may have suffered for use in filing your claim and/or civil action.  For additional information about torts, read the following article:

Civil Law and Criminal Law:
What’s the Difference?




1. A wrong. Hayes v Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co. 125 I11 626, 18 NE 322.

A wrong independent of contract.  International Ocean Tel. Co. v Saunders, 32 Fla 434, 14 So 148.

A breach of duty which the law, as distinguished from a mere contract, has imposed.  Western Union Tel. Co. v Taylor, 84 Ga 408, 11 SE 396.

An injury or wrong committed, either with or without force, to the person or property of another.
     Such injury may arise by the nonfeasance, by the malfeasance, or by the misfeasance of the wrongdoer. Gindele v Corrigan, 129 I11 582, 22 NE 516.

     In a general way, a tort is distinguished from a breach of contract in that the latter arises under an agreement of the parties, whereas the tort, ordinarily, is a violation of a duty fixed by law, independent of contract or the will of the parties, although it may sometimes have relation to obligations growing out of, or coincident with a contract, and frequently the same facts will sustain either class of action.  Busch v Interborough Rapid Transit Co. 187 NY 388, 80 NE 197.

     Although the same act may constitute both a crime and a tort, the crime is an offense against the public pursued by the sovereign, while the tort is a private injury which is pursued by the injured party.  52 Am J1st Torts § 2. [1]

1. A wrong involving a breach of duty and resulting in an injury to the person or property of another.  A tort is distinguished from a breach of contract in that a tort is a violation of a duty established by law, whereas a breach of contract results from a failure to meet an obligation created by the agreement of the parties.  Although the same act may be both a crime and a tort, the crime is an offense against the public which is prosecuted by the state in a criminal action; the tort is a private wrong that must be pursued by the injured party in a civil action. [2]

1. A civil wrong, other than breach of contract, for which a remedy may be obtained, usually in the form of damages; a breach of a duty that the law imposes on persons who stand in a particular relation to one another.  Tortious conduct is typically one of four types:

1.) a culpable or intentional act resulting in harm
2.) an act involving culpable & unlawful conduct causing unintentional harm
3.) a culpable act of inadvertence involving an unreasonable risk of harm
4.) a nonculpable act resulting in accidental harm for which, because of the hazards involved, the law imposes strict or absolute liability despite the absence of fault. 

2. (pl.) The branch of law dealing with such wrongs. [3]

     Excerpt from J.W. Cecil Turner’s Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law:

      “To ask concerning any occurrence ‘Is this a crime or is it a tort?’  is — to borrow Sir James Stephen’s apt illustration — no wiser than it would be to ask concerning a man ‘Is he a father or a son?’ For he may well be both.[4]

     Excerpt from R.F.V. Heuston’s Salmond on the Law of Torts:

     “We may… define a tort as a civil wrong for which the remedy is a common-law action for unliquidated damages, and which is not exclusively the breach of a contract or the breach of a trust or other merely equitable obligation.” [5]

     Excerpt from W. Page Keeton’s Prosser & Keeton on the Law of Torts:

   “It might be possible to define a tort by enumerating the things that it is not.  It is not a crime, it is not a breach of contract, it is not necessarily concerned with property rights or problems of government, but is the occupant of a large residuary field remaining if these are taken out of the law.  But this again is illusory, and the conception of a tort of legal garbage-can to hold what can be put nowhere else is of no help.  In the first place, tort is a field which pervades the entire law,& is so interlocked at every point with property, contract and other accepted classifications that, as the student of law soon discovers, the categories are quite arbitrary.  In the second, there is a central theme, or basis or idea, running through the cases of what are called torts, which, although difficult to put into words, does distinguish them in a greater or less degree from other types of cases.[6]

Etymology of “Tort”:

1. (mid-13c.) “Injury, wrong,” from Old French tort “wrong, injustice, crime”

2. (11c.), from Medieval Latin tortum “injustice,” noun use of neuter of tortus ‘wrung, twisted,’ past participle of Latin torquere ‘turn, turn awry, twist, wring, distort’ (from PIE root *terkw- “to twist”)

3. Legal sense of ‘breach of a duty, whereby someone acquires a right of action for damages’ is first recorded 1580s. [7]


Note: Clicking on any of the below terms will take you to the full definition; this page will remain open.

General Legal Terms pertaining to Torts:

feasance – the doing or accomplishment of an act, condition, or obligation.

  • malfeasance – a wrongful, unlawful, or dishonest act; especially, wrongdoing or misconduct by a public official.
  • misfeasance – the performance of a duty or act which one ought or has a right to do, but in a manner such as to infringe upon the rights of others.
  • nonfeasance – the negligent failure to act when a duty to act exists.

official misconduct – public officer’s corrupt violation of assigned duties by malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance. — aka misconduct in office; misbehavior in office; malconduct in office; misdemeanor in office; corruption in office; official corruption; political corruption.

tortious conduct – an act or omission that subjects the actor to liability under the principles of tort law.

Basic Classifications of Torts;

     Which of the following may apply to your case?

mass tort – a civil wrong that injures many people.

intentional tort – committed by someone acting with general or specific intent (i.e. battery, false imprisonment, trespass to land).

  • prima facie tort – an unjustified, intentional infliction of harm on another person, resulting in damages, by one or more acts that would otherwise be lawful (often business related).

negligent tort – committed by failure to observe the standard of care required by law under the circumstances. — aka act of negligence.

  • negligence – failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in a similar situation.
    • reasonable person test – a hypothetical person used as a legal standard, especially to determine if someone acted with negligence.

public tort – a minor breach of the law (i.e. a parking violation) that, although it carries a criminal punishment, is considered a civil offense rather than a criminal one because it is merely a prohibited act and not inherently reprehensible conduct.

quasi-tort – when one who did not directly commit is liable, such as when an employer is held liable for a tort committed by an employee.

  • vicarious liability – liability that a supervisory party (i.e. an employer or principal) bears for the actionable conduct of a subordinate or associate (i.e. an employee or agent).
  • respondeat superior – the doctrine wherein liability is imposed on an employer for the acts of its employees committed in the course and scope of their employment, or on a principal for acts of their agent(s).

maritime tort – any tort within admiralty jurisdiction.


Personal Torts:

personal tort – injury to one’s person, reputation, or feelings.

  • dignitary tort – injury to one’s reputation or honor (defamation).

Filing Against Government Officials:

government tort – committed by the government through an employee, agent, or instrumentality under its control.

  • constitutional tort – a violation of one’s constitutional rights by a government officer, redressable by a civil action filed directly against the officer.
  • tortious denial of benefits – the improper, often baseless refusal to recognize a valid claim for financial assistance. — aka wrongful denial of benefits.

Tort-Claims Act – a federal or state statute that, under stated circumstances, waives sovereign immunity and allows lawsuits by people who claim they have been injured by the government or its agents and employees; these laws typically require the prospective plaintiff to file a claim before starting litigation, giving the government an opportunity to engage in discovery and, sometimes, settle.

Torts that involve Environmental Damages and/or Toxic Chemicals:

environmental tort – involves exposure to disagreeable or harmful environmental conditions or harm to & degradation of an environment (i.e. land, water, air).

toxic tort – a civil wrong arising from exposure to a toxic substance, such as asbestos, radiation, or hazardous waste. 

Abuse of Litigation Procedures:

malicious prosecution – institution of a criminal or civil proceeding for an improper purpose, without probable cause. — aka (in the context of civil proceedings)malicious use of process; (archaically) malicious institution of civil proceedings; malicious prosecution of civil action.

malicious defense – defendant’s use of unfair, harassing, or illegal tactics to advance a frivolous or unmeritorious defense.

Business Related:

business tort – a tort that impairs some aspect of an economic interest or business relationship, causing economic loss rather than property damage or bodily harm.  aka economic tort.

tortious interference with contractual relations – a third party’s intentional inducement of a contracting party to break a contract, causing damage to the relationship between the contracting parties.

tortious interference with prospective advantage – an intentional, damaging intrusion on another’s potential business relationship, such as the opportunity of obtaining customers or employment.  aka intentional interference with prospective economic advantage; interference with a business relationship; tortious interference with a business advantage; tortious interference with economic relations

Family Law Torts:

marital tort – a tort by one spouse against the other (i.e. assault and battery, transmission of STDs, emotional distress).  aka domestic tort.

preconception tort – committed before the victim has been conceived.

prenatal tort – committed against a fetus (including torts a child can sue for after being born).

Miscellaneous Torts:

property tort – the unlawful interference by one person with the enjoyment by another of his private property, including property loss or damage to such property.

sanctions tort – a means of recovery for another party’s discovery abuse, whereby the judge orders the abusive party to pay a fine to the injured party for the discovery violation.

tortious battery – a nonconsensual, intentional, and offensive touching of another, but not necessarily with the intent to do harm or offense as required in a criminal battery.

Tort-of-Another Doctrine – in some states, a statutory rule that authorizes a court to award litigation related expenses, including attorney’s fees, to a prevailing party forced to bring or defend a lawsuit against a third party for a tort committed by someone else who refused, after notice, to bring or defend the lawsuit.

Crimes that are also usually Torts – actionable via both civil proceedings and criminal proceedings.


Civil Law Self-Help Walkthrough

     Now that you’ve found which types of torts adversely affected you, it is a good time to assess whether you have suffered any injuries (including non-physical injuries such as injuries to your legally-protected rights) or losses; it is also important to assess which types of injuries and or losses you may have suffered.  Click on the following terms to open up a page similar to this one to assess types of injuries and losses for use in filing your claim and/or civil action:

injury – includes physical wounding of one’s person (a physical injury to the body) or a non-physical injury (i.e. the violation of a legal right).

loss – the decrease or total diminishing in value of property, usually in an unexpected or relatively unpredictable way, or the act of losing something that is gone and cannot be recovered, such as a life or friendship, etc.


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[2]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[3]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[4]: J.W. Cecil Turner’s Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law 543 (16th ed. 1952)

[5]: R.F.V. Heuston, Salmond on the Law of Torts 13 (17th e. 1977)

[6]: W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser & Keeton on the Law of Torts § 1, at 2-3 (5th ed. 1984)

[7]:  Online Etymology Dictionary, “Tort”:


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