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Ag Torts 101: So What Exactly Is A “Tort?”

I’m starting a new blog series where I will work through different torts that affect farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses.  I think it is important for livestock producers, farmers, and business people involved in this great industry to be cognizant of the main areas of law that affect their everyday life.  I will try to make the tort lessons bite size and palatable while illustrating common examples of these torts in the agriculture industry.  There will be other blogs intermingled throughout this Ag Torts 101 Series but I encourage you to come back as I work through various agriculture torts.

So what exactly is a “tort?” Well, I certainly never heard of a tort before law school but it is more commonly used now since tort reform is a hot political topic  (i.e., we have increased insurance prices because our society is so litigious).  Put simply, a tort is a civil wrongdoing other than a breach of contract.  It differs from its criminal counterpart in terms of liability and damages.  Prosser and Keeton, who wrote the treatise on tort law, said the following:

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.

W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts § 1, at 2 (5th ed. 1984).

There are many different kinds of torts but they can be separated into four main categories:

1.  intentional torts — including but not limited to assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, trespass, and intentional interference with business relations;

2.  negligent torts — including but not limited to negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and negligent infliction of emotional distress;

3.  strict liability— including but not limited to statutory violations (i.e., negligence per se), ultrahazardous activities, and strict liability products liability claims; and

4.  other torts where intent is not an issue – including but not limited to malpractice, nuisance, defamation, invasion of the right to privacy.

Not all torts are applicable in a typical farming or ranching operation.  Negligence is the primary tort that affects agriculture producers and agribusinesses.  In the next Ag Torts 101 lesson, I will delve into the common law elements of negligence and note some common farm and ranch case illustrations so stay tuned!

"This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction before relying on the information in this blog."

3 Responses to Ag Torts 101: So What Exactly Is A “Tort?”

  1. […] 17, 2009 by Jodie L. Hill A fellow legal blogger, Cari Rinker, at Agriculture Law and Policy Blog, outlines the different types of torts available under common law.  While some of the […]

  2. […] Type of Law Sorry that it’s been a while since my last Ag Torts 101 blog.  As a reminder, in this blog, I stated that a “tort” is a civil wrongdoing other than breach of contract.  […]

  3. Nathan Ranger / Farmstead Ag says:

    Hello. I have a Rancher am helping. I will break down in as short order as possible.
    Rancher took our private $$ loan. ( 2nd mortg. / Rancher asked for additional time to pay. / Lender took cattle. ( Ranchers income) Lender harassed & ran off tenants ( Ranchers income) Lender learned ranch has extremely valuable assets ( water & mineral rights) Lender became more abusive & aggressive. showing up 2am. Rancher got scared, paid lender instead of 1st mortgage. Lender harassment continued/ stops Ranchers income of hemp, rock quarry. lender buys out rights to 1st mortg. Lenders son has an S.E.C filing. Lender is known for harassment.

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