Monday, August 1, 2011

The twisted path

According to an interesting book I've been reading, the word ‘tort’ is derived from the Latin tortus, meaning ‘twisted'. Somehow I seem to remember that a battle formation for the legions was called the tortus due to the shape formed when they interlocked their shield above and around the group. More important for this blog, is that tortus came to mean ‘wrong’ and it is still so used in French when one says ‘J’ai tort’ for ‘I am wrong’. However I have to say that there is nothing wrong so far with my study of the subject of tort even if the path is a bit twisted at times. I really do enjoy it, especially the bits on negligence which have been the main focus so far. The cases are really quite interesting to read (albeit a bit tragic) and the logic behind the reasoning is exciting to see develop over time. I have to confess that would find myself hard pressed to find some logical limitations on negligence although I think the judges involved have given it a fairly good shake. For example when I first heard of the judgment in Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police I thought that it was unjust. However after reading more about it I tend to agree with the decision. Particularly the claim that if family members were to have suffered nervous shock watching the events unfold via television a claim of action would be better brought against the broadcaster rather than the police. Also the notion of dividing people into primary and secondary victims seems to be of benefit. Still it is hard to find the right place to draw a line when one is liable under the tort of negligence - I guess that is why the requirement of "fair, just or reasonable’ is so subjective.


  1. I am finding Tort law interesting, too. It is complex, however, heavy on case law and overlapping with contract and criminal. It helps to have taken those two already.

    (By the way, the Roman battle formation was not 'tortus' but 'testudo,' the latin word for 'tortoise.' The word 'tort' came into English from Norman French, as you note.)

    All the best!

  2. Hey Legal Yankee! Really good to see you again, seems like it has been ages, hope you are doing well and that exam results will be kind. Thanks for the comment and the correction - you are 100% right about testudo. I've put a new link up for Paul's blog and I will do the same for yours if you don't mind, I hear lots of good things about it. Take care.