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Contract and tort


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A description of the law of tort is outside the scope of this Site, even in summary. However, our intention is to highlight those types of tort which we feel are most relevant to business, in particular SMEs.

The UK jurisdictions of England and Wales and Northern Ireland have developed the law of tort via the common law on the one hand, while in Scotland this subject is termed the law of ‘delict’ and derives from civil law principles, albeit also heavily influenced by the decided cases.

The description of the law in this section is largely that of England and Wales (Wales does not have devolved powers in this area). The clarity of the law in the other UK jurisdictions is not assisted by the fact that legislation of the UK Parliament modifying the law of torts does not apply uniformly throughout the UK.

A ‘tort’ is a civil legal wrong committed by a person against another. n many jurisdictions. A tort is also distinct from other types of civil wrongs such as breach of contract.

A tort is distinct from a crime which is a legal wrong committed against the state. Many but not all torts also amount to crimes, e.g. assault, theft and fraud. However, not all torts are crimes, and not all crimes are torts. For example, defamation is not a crime in the UK(i) is a crime in some other jurisdictions(ii).


(i) the common law offences of seditious libel, defamatory libel, and obscene libel were abolished in the England and Wales and Northern Ireland on 12 January 2010 when s.73 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 came into force.

(ii) Sweden is an example.

.In the broadest sense, the infringement of a property or other right may be regarded as a tort, for example infringement of intellectual property rights such as copyright, patents, designs, confidential information, passing off and trade marks.

Breach of statutory duty

Many of the laws described in Regulated_businesses impose duties on persons carrying on the business. If such a person breaches such a duty and causes loss or damage to a another person who is within a specific class of persons which is recognised by the law as intended to be protected, the latter may be entitled to compensation. Examples of such duties may be found in:

Competition law; Data protection; Health and safety at work; Intellectual property; Marketing and advertising; Product liability; Claims management; Employment agencies; Estate Agents; Financial services; Holidays and travel


Engand and Wales, Northern Ireland

The law of tort has developed as separate, discrete categories such as the torts of negligence, nuisance, defamation, conspiracy, wrongful interference with contract and others.


In Scotland tort is known as 'delict' and has developed more on general principles than is the case in the rest of Great Britain. However, the principles of perhaps the most important tort, negligence, are the same throughout the UK.

[Page updated: 29/02/2016]



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