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In Your Court: Demystifying torts

Published: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 9:13 a.m. CDT

A tort is a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy. The remedy for a tort is often, but is not always, monetary compensation. Some examples of torts are battery, conversion, trespass and – probably the most popular – negligence.

Note that a tort is not only a civil wrong, but also a wrong for which there is a remedy. For instance, if someone were to ask you the time of day, and you purposefully told them the wrong time, it would not be a tort. This is because, although it is a civil wrong (being a jerk), the law does not provide a remedy against those people who tell others the wrong time of day and have no duty to tell people the right time of day. Other examples of civil wrongs that are not torts could be name-calling, cutting in line or just being rude.

As stated above, the remedy for a tort could be, but is not always, monetary compensation. The best example where monetary compensation would not be an appropriate remedy would be in the case of a conversion of a family heirloom.

For example, let’s say you lent your deceased grandfather’s military watch to a friend for a night out on the town. Afterward, your “friend” decides to keep the watch. You would not bring a lawsuit for the amount of the watch because the watch is invaluable to you. Instead, you would bring a lawsuit asking the court to force the return of the watch.

Now that we understand a tort, next week, I will begin to demystify the most commonly known tort – the personal injury lawsuit. 

• Anthony Scifo is a resident of Kane County and an associate attorney with Shaw, Jacobs, Goostree and Associates P.C. in St. Charles, where he concentrates in divorce and family law, personal injury and wrongful death. His goal with this occasional column is to help educate the public regarding the court system and the law. Contact him with general legal questions at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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