Legal Maxims and Case Law related to the Law of Torts
The legal maxims are very concise on nature, these maxims are often used in the law as a fundamental rule or principle and has to be followed by the society, Legal maxims are necessarily used to avoid the long definition. There are some legal maxims which are commonly used in the law of torts and came to the light through cases. The most important factor for tort is that the person or the plaintiff has suffered legal damage. Also, maxims are widely used in the law of torts, according to the Salmond “torts is a civil wrong for which remedy is in a common-law action for unliquidated damages and which is not exclusively the breach of contract or the breach of trust or other merely equitable obligation”.
There are few maxims which developed with the law of torts and are very important.
Damnum sine Injuria
‘Causing damage to a person without Injury’, here damage is used in the sense of monetary. Comfortability, services, and health, etc. Injury refers to the violation of legal rights.
In simple words, causing damages to a person without infringement of any legal rights,. Many acts seem to be harmful in nature but are not considered to be wrongful in the law, so they are not actionable and does not provide any remedy to the sufferer.
Also according to the principle, If a person is enjoying his/her legal right and in doing so he/she cause damage to another person, in that case the person will not be considered as a wrong doer.
Gloucester Grammar school case
Fact: the defendant was a schoolteacher who started a new school very close to the plaintiff’s school ( Gloucester Grammar School) a large number of students moved to the new school, thus the plaintiff suffer a monetary loss, therefore the owner of Gloucester Grammar School that is plaintiff brought a suit against the defendant.
The issue raised: in this case is whether the defendant is held responsible for the loss suffered by the plaintiff. Also, does the case cover all the essentials of the Damnum Sine Injuria?
The judgment held that no suit can be brought against the defendant, because there is no violation of legal rights of the plaintiff, he only suffered a monetary loss and also the defendant had lawfully started the school.
- Injuria sine Damnum.
‘Causing injury to a person without any actual physical damage’, here injury refers to the violation of legal rights.
In simple words infringement of a person’s legal rights without any actual damage to wealth, health, and individuals comfort.
There are many instances where a person suffers a legal injury due to the act of the other person, here in such cases the plaintiff does not have to prove the damage he suffered but he has to prove the legal damage that he had suffered. Whenever there is a violation of a legal right, the person whose right has been violated is entitled to bring a suit against the person who caused injury, although the person has not suffered actual harm but this is actionable in the law and the sufferer will get remedy.
Ashby v/s white, 1703
Fact; Ashby, an ordinary man who has a right to vote, so when the plaintiff went to cast his vote but he was denied to exercise his right by the defendant although the person whom he wants to vote has won the election. The plaintiff that is Ashby brought a suit against the defendant on the ground of violation of his legal rights.
The issue raised: in this case is whether the plaintiff is entitled to recover damages when one of his civil rights is hindered by the action of another.
The court held: that the right to vote is a common right and any obstacle to enjoying that right will lead to action, and remedy to the sufferer.
- Ubi jus ibi remedium
The word jus means, legal body or authority, and remedium means that the person has the right of action in the court.
The law of torts is said to be the development of the maxim. The meaning of this maxim is ‘where there is a wrong there is a remedy’, this is also one of the essentials of a tort law, According to this maxim if any wrong has been committed or the right of a person has been violated then the court will provide a remedy. Therefore no wrong should be allowed to go without compensation.
These maxim is only applicable when there is a right which is recognized by law and there must be a wrongful act in all circumstance causing injury to a person, as if there is no injury caused to a person then this could not be applicable.
Bhim Singh v. State of Jammu and Kashmir
Fact: Bhim Singh the MLA of Jammu and Kashmir parliamentary assembly, when he was on his way to attend the parliamentary session, he was wrongfully arrested by a police officer and he was restrained to attend the session and also he was not presented before a magistrate on time, there was a voting session and his vote is crucial and he was not able to vote but the person whom he wished to vote won, he brought a suit for restraining him to enjoy his rights. When he was not satisfied with the judgment of the apex court he brought the filed a case to the supreme court under article 32.
The issue raised: is whether the compensation in the form of money is suitable or not? and the detention of Bhim Singh is valid or not?
The court held: that Bhim Singh was detained unlawfully and he was deprived of enjoying article 21, which allows citizens to go wherever they want without any unlawful retrain. As a remedy, the court awarded him 50000/- compensation.
- Ex turpi causa non oritur action
The meaning of this maxim is that ‘no action can arise from an illegal act’.
There are some cases where the plaintiff himself involved in the illegal act therefore that person will not be able to bring suit against the other person and the plaintiff will not get any remedy. This could be used as a defense which the defendant can use to exempt his liability from an act as the plaintiff is also involved in the illegal act. In the form of defense, this maxim is not only used in the law of torts but also used in the property, contract, trust, and restitution.
Holman V Johnson (1775)
Fact: the plaintiff was aware of the fact that the defendant is going to smuggle the tea to England, without paying the legal duty, while knowing all the facts he sold and delivered the tea to him. The Defendant never paid for the tea and the Claimant brought an action for the price of the tea.
The issue raised: in the case is that the seller was aware of the buyers’ illicit intension. Therefore the seller would be entitled to recover the value of the good or not?
The court held: that the interest of the plaintiff in the contract was completed by the delivery of goods after which nothing left for the plaintiff to do. it was said that the plaintiff was not guilty of any offense.
- Res ipsa loquitor
This is one of the most essential maxims to decide the judgment of any case, the meaning of this maxim is that the ‘things speak for itself’, the Res ipsa loquitor is used in the cases of negligence, where the pieces of evidence of a case are not properly stated but the facts are enough to prove the negligence of defendant party. This is one type of evidence that allows a reasonable fact finder to determine that the other person caused an unusual event to occur which causes injury to the plaintiff and also the defendant is negligent in his part.
- The presence of negligence: like accidents occur when someone has acted negligently. But there are still some instance where the plaintiff has to prove negligent
- The defendant is only responsible: like if a surgeon during surgery leaves a sponge inside the body of the patient, in such cases the plaintiff does not have to prove the surgeons negligent.
- The defendant has a duty of care towards the plaintiff.
Spring Meadows Hospital v. Harjol Ahluwalia
Fact: a minor was admitted to a hospital, where the doctors examined the condition of the boy and found that the boy is suffering from typhoid fever and appropriate medicines were prescribed for the same, the nurse asked the father to bring the particular medicine (injection). Upon which the nurse injected the same to the boy, as soon as the boy injected he collapsed on the lap of his mother. After that, the doctor attendant the patient and informed the family about the cardiac arrest and the doctor manually tried to revive the heartbeat of the child. The child was shifted to another and kept in the intensive care unit (ICU). After careful examination, the doctor declared that the condition of the boy is critical as irreparable damage has been caused to the brain and there was no chance of the recovery. After release from the referred hospital, the doctors of the first hospital offered to admit the child and they will try to recover the boy’s health. The complaint has been filed against the hospital for being negligent on their part.
The issue raised: in this case is that, do the parents of the child who was admitted in the hospital can be held to be consumers so to claim compensation under the provision of the consumer protection act. Does the commission is entitled to pay compensation the child’s parents for the mental agony, and does the parents of the child come under the definition of the consumer under section 2(1)(d).
The Supreme Court held: that as the young child goes to the hospital with his parents and is being treated by the doctors, therefore the parents of the child come under the definition of the consumer, and the child would also become a consumer. Thus the hospital has to compensate them for being negligent on their part and for deficiency in providing the services.
Actio personalis moritur cum persona
“The personal right of action dies with a person” in simple terms the rights of the person dies with his/her death. The cases cannot be passed to the other person, the credibility of the case came to an end with the death of the person. In 1496 the first case came to the light, where a woman died before paying the charges due on her for defaming someone and since then this maxim applied.
Nurani Jamal And Others vs Naram Srinivasa Rao And Others
Case Jaheen Jamal claimed compensation against the defendant for the injury that he had suffered in a motor vehicle accident. While the case was pending, the plaintiff dies in another motor accident. The representative of the deceased filed a petition which was dismissed by the court.
The issue raised in this case is whether the legal representative can continue the action if the deceased was no longer available or if died.
The court held that the action for the legal injury that a person suffers will die with him, but in the condition of the damage or the loss to the property of a person then the above maxim has no application.
- Ratanlal Ranchhoddas and Dhirajlal Keshavlal, The English and Indian Law of Torts
- SCC ONLINE