GENERAL DEFENCE UNDER LAW OF TORTS

TORT LAW

Civil wrongs are dealt with under tort law. Whether done accidently or on purpose, a person is responsible for their actions. Damages are paid to the harmed or offended party. Compensation for property loss, medical expenditures, mental or physical incapacity, pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer, are all possible damages.

Except for contractual claims, tort law governs the vast majority of civil lawsuit claims. The tort law's goal is to offer monetary compensation to people who have been injured by the actions of others.

Negligent torts, deliberate torts, and strict responsibility torts are the three types of torts recognized by the law. Accidents are regarded to be torts involving negligence. Theft is an example of an intentional tort, which refers to injury done to individuals with the intent to harm them.

The tortfeasor is the person who commits the tortious act and is the defendant in the civil litigation.

DEFENCES UNDER LAW OF TORT

When a plaintiff takes an action against a defendant for a tort committed by him, he will be deemed accountable if all of the necessary ingredients for that wrong are present. However, he has various defences at his disposal that he might use to relieve himself of any guilt deriving from the wrongdoing. In tort law, these are referred to as "general defences."

The defences available are given as follows:

· Volenti non fit injuria i.e the defense of ‘Consent’

· The wrongdoer is the plaintiff

· Inevitable accident

· Act of god

· Private defense

· Mistake

· Necessity

· Statutory authority


VOLENTI NON-FIT INJURIA

Volenti Non Fit Injuria is a Latin maxim that states that a person who is willing to suffer and consent to suffering pain and injury as a result of the defendant's actions cannot complain about such an infringement of his legal rights. If the plaintiff suffers harm with his own agreement, he cannot hold the defendant accountable, and the defendant can employ the Volenti Non Fit Injuria defence to avoid any obligation. The logical basis behind the defendant's defence is that a person cannot assert rights that he has knowingly and voluntarily waived. This type of wilful consent can be expressed or implied.

In the case of Hall v. Brooklands[i] Auto Racing Club, a car race was taking place, and the plaintiff was a spectator of the event, which was taking place on defendant's track. Two cars collided, causing one to drift towards the onlookers, injuring the plaintiff. The court found that the plaintiff gave his wilful permission and knowingly assumed the risk of witnessing an event that could have resulted in injury, and that the defendant was not accountable.

Consent obtained under Compulsion

· When someone agrees to do anything out of the blue or under duress, there is no such thing as consent.

· It also applies when the person providing consent does not have complete decision-making authority.

· As a result, when a servant is forced to perform work against his will, the maxim volenti non fit injuria does not apply.

· However, if he acts without being forced, he may be able to use the consent defence.

PLAINTIFF IS THE WRONG DOER

'Ex Turpi Causa Non Oritur Actio' is a Latin maxim that means 'no action originates from an immoral cause.' When the plaintiff's act is improper or illegal, the defendant is exempted from liability in torts. In many circumstances, the plaintiff is unable to seek legal redress from the court because he was wrong in the first place and his own acts resulted in his legal injury.

In Pitts v. Hunt[ii] an 18-year-old rider encouraged his 16-year-old pal to drive rapidly while inebriated. The automobile was involved in an accident, and the younger child died. The older boy was injured, and he sued the deceased's relatives for compensation for his injuries. The court dismissed the plaintiff's claim of compensation since the plaintiff was the wrongdoer in this case, and the defendant may utilize this defense to avoid accountability.


INEVITABLE ACCIDENT

An unexpected injury is referred to as an accident, and if the nature of the injury is such that it could not have been avoided despite all precautionary measures and carefulness exercised by the defendant, it is referred to as an Inevitable Accident, which serves as a defense for the defendant to absolve himself of any liability. The Inevitable Accident defense is effective because the defendant can demonstrate that the legal injury could not have been prevented despite taking all reasonable precautions and care and having no intentional intent to harm the other party.

In the case of Sridhar Tiwari v. U.P.[iii] State Road Transport Corporation, as a U.P.S.R.T.C. bus approached a village, a cyclist suddenly appeared in front of the bus, and the day was so rainy that the bus did not stop even after he applied the brakes, and the rear portion of the bus collided with another bus approaching from the other side. It may be assumed that neither bus driver was at fault, and that they tried everything possible to avoid a collision. The plaintiff's complaint was dismissed because it was an unavoidable accident for which the defendant U.P.S.R.T.C. could not be held accountable.


ACT OF GOD

The Act of God Defense is used in situations where an incident occurs over which the defendant has no control and the damage is caused by natural causes. In simple terms, it is defined as a set of circumstances that no human foresight could prevent, and which a reasonably reasonable individual would not see as a possibility. The resulting damages are tainted by natural causes, and the defendant is not accountable for such injuries.



There are two essential of Act of God:

1. Nature's forces should be at work:

An angry mob robbed all that was aboard plaintiff's lorry in Ramalinga Nadar v. Narayan Reddiar[iv]. In a case presented by the plaintiff, the court ruled that the Act of God defense could not be used and that the plaintiff was entitled to compensation.

2. The event must be unusual and unexpected, and it cannot be reasonably avoided:

The plaintiff's children were killed when the building's wall collapsed owing to natural rainfall in Kallu Lal v. Hemchand[v]. The court stated that 2.66 inches of rain is normal and not unusual, and thus the fundamental elements of the Act of God defense are not met, and the defendant will be held accountable.


PRIVATE DEFENCE

Every individual has the legal right to protect his or her own life and property, as well as the lives and property of others. This right is recognized under tort law, and any act performed by an individual in the exercise of this right is held to be free of tort responsibility. The following are the two most important aspects of this defense:

1. A reasonable and impending threat to life or property must exist.

2. The use of force is solely for the sake of protection, not retaliation.

3. The amount of force employed should be proportionate to the threat.

The defendant landowner had placed wires on the land in Ramanuja Mudali v. M. Gangan[vi]. Because there was no notice of such arrangements, the plaintiff was shocked when he crossed his land to go to his farm. This resulted in significant injuries. Defendant's actions do not qualify as Private Defense, making him accountable.


MISTAKE

The mistake is of two types:

· Mistake of law

· Mistake of fact


The defendant has no legal defense in either situation.

In some cases, a defendant may invoke the defense of error to avoid culpability under tort law.

Morrison v. Ritchie & Co.[vii] was a mistaken publication by the defendant of a statement that the plaintiff had given birth to twins in good faith. The plaintiff had only been married for two months at the time of the lawsuit. In such circumstances, the condition of good faith is irrelevant, and the defendant was found guilty of defamation.


NECESSITY

In order to avoid greater harm, the defendant has the right to cause legal injury to the plaintiff under the General Defense of Necessity. According to this defense, if a defendant commits an act that causes legal injury to another person in order to avoid greater harm, the defendant will not be held accountable.

In the case of Cope v. Sharpe[viii], the defendant invaded the plaintiff's property to prevent the fire from spreading to surrounding territory. In a complaint filed by a plaintiff alleging trespass, the court found that the defendant was not liable for the trespass and that the defense of necessity was a viable defense.


STATUTORY AUTHORITY

Even if it would otherwise be a tort, an act that is authorized by a law or statute issued by the relevant authorities is not actionable. It acts as a complete defense against tort responsibility, leaving the injured plaintiff with no recourse other than the compensation allowed by the relevant statute.

In Smith v. London and South Western Railway Co[ix], the railway company's servants neglected to trim the hedges along the railway track, causing sparks to be carried by wing to a neighboring cottage, resulting in a fire. The defense of legislative authority was found to be ineffective when there was negligence that was not covered by the act, and the defendants were held accountable for the damages.



CONCLUSION

General defences are a series of 'excuses' that you can use to avoid being held responsible. In order to avoid culpability in a case where the plaintiff pursues an action against the defendant for a specific tort, the defendant would have to prove the existence of all the necessary elements of that tort.

[i] (1933) 1 KB 205 [ii] (1990) 3 All ER 344 [iii] 2 (1986) ACC 393 [iv] AIR 1971 Ker 197 [v] AIR 1958 MP 48 [vi] AIR 1984 Mad 103 [vii] {1902} SLR 39_432 [viii] (1891) 1 KB 496 [ix] (1869-70) LR 5 CP 98



This article is written by Tanishka Bajaj of Vivekananda Institute Of Professional Studies.

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