Civil Liability Assignment Paper

 

A person who suffers damage or injury from the bad acts and even accidents of others can seek financial remedies in civil court. This article discusses civil liability. For information about criminal liability, see our article on Criminal Liability.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

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Civil vs. Criminal
A civil action is a lawsuit filed by a private person (not the government) against another private person. Usually these lawsuits seek monetary damages for injury or loss that the party suing (the plaintiff) alleges the party sued (the defendant) caused. A defendant who loses in a civil action does not face the risk of prison or fines. A classic civil lawsuit would be a lawsuit by a homeowner against his neighbor, seeking damages (money) for the ruination of his car due to the neighbor’s falling tree.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

By contrast, a criminal action is a prosecution by the government (usually the state) of an individual for violating a provision of the criminal code. The penalty that a defendant faces in a criminal action may include prison time, a fine, or other terms

Civil actions are categorized according to the type of injury or damage involved. They include “torts” (a French word that simply means “wrong,” such as personal injury and wrongful death), contract disputes, product liability claims, and business disputes (such as patent infringement claims). See the sections below for more on these types of civil cases.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Liability
As used in the term “civil liability,” the word liability means responsibility for the harm alleged by the plaintiff and the damages suffered. A person found liable in a civil action, upon a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, must pay whatever monetary damages the jury (or sometimes the judge) awards to the plaintiff.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Lower Burden of Proof
A plaintiff in a civil case need only prove her case by a “preponderance of the evidence,” sometimes described as enough evidence to just tip the balance in favor of the plaintiff. Compare this to the burden in a criminal case: beyond a reasonable doubt, which is short of absolute certainty but certain enough that there is no real reason to believe otherwise. So, in a civil action, if the plaintiff proves that it is more likely than not that the defendant was responsible for her injuries or loss, she wins.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Breach of Contract: Not following the contract
A huge portion of the civil lawsuits filed in the U.S. arise out of disputes between parties to a contract. Generally speaking, the plaintiff in such actions alleges that the defendant has failed to comply with some term(s) of the contract, causing damage to the plaintiff. For example, disputes between landlords and tenants often involve a question of who breached (didn’t follow) the lease, which is a contact.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Intentional Torts: Purposeful acts
Some civil wrongs result from intentionally “bad” acts by defendants, such as intentional misrepresentation (fraud), defamation, and employment discrimination. In these cases, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant purposely engaged in certain conduct, for example, by offering evidence that the defendant had spread false rumors that the plaintiff had engaged in a crime, knowing that the rumors were false.

Negligence Liability: Accidents
Not all civil actions involve intentional conduct by the defendant. Plaintiffs in many civil cases allege that the defendant acted negligently and that this negligence caused their injuries or loss. In such cases, the plaintiff need not show any intent at all on the part of the defendant. But, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty to exercise due care in taking the action he took that injured the plaintiff, and that he failed to take such care.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Strict liability: Liable even when you didn’t intend it or act accidentally
In certain cases, a plaintiff will win if she proves that the defendant simply engaged in a particular act, regardless of any actual fault or even negligence. Product liability lawsuits involving defective products are often subject to a strict liability standard. In such cases, a manufacturer places a product in the market knowing that consumers will use it “without inspection for defects” and is held strictly liable for any injuries that result from defects in the product. (Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc.) This means that the injured party doesn’t need to show carelessness, let alone an intent to cause injury.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Courts have reasoned that it is fair to hold manufacturers strictly liable for defective products because public policy is best served by assigning responsibility where it will be most effective in reducing the potential for harm. Manufacturers are in the best position to both address defects in their products and absorb the cost to society of such defects (by spreading it out among all purchasers).

Strict liability may also be imposed for injuries or damage caused by extremely hazardous activities and certain other torts.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Vicarious liability: Responsibility for others’ acts
At times, the law imposes responsibility for civil wrongs on people or entities other than those actually engaging in the conduct that led to injury or damage. This is called vicarious liability. For example, under federal (and some state) law, an employer may be held vicariously liable for an employee’s sexual harassment of another employee if the employer knew about the harassment and failed to address it effectively. Parents may be found liable for the acts of their minor children under some state laws (for more information, see our article on Parent’s Civil Liability for a Child’s Acts). Such liability is based on a theory that certain parties (employers, parents) have authority over, and a duty to control, certain other parties (subordinates, children).Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Damages
As mentioned above, the only penalty a defendant in a civil action faces is financial (except in the rare cases where a court awards injunctive relief, as mentioned below). An award in a civil action may include:Civil Liability Assignment Paper

reimbursement of monies the plaintiff lost due to the defendant’s actions
compensation for damage to property caused by the defendant
reimbursement of monies due to the plaintiff for defendant’s breach of a contract
reimbursement of medical expenses for injuries caused by the defendant
compensation for pain and suffering (also called “emotional distress damages”)
in some intentional tort cases (such as employment discrimination) in some states, punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter others, and
in some states and for some torts (or if agreed to by contract), payment of the side’s attorneys fees.
The plaintiff has to prove the losses sought in damages, often through expert witnesses such as economists and psychological experts.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Plaintiffs may seek what is known as injunctive relief in addition to monetary damages in certain cases. An injunction is a court order that the defendant take or cease to take some action. For example, a court may order a company to “cease and desist” infringing on the patent of another company, as well as award monetary damages to be paid by the defendant company to the plaintiff company.

Ask an Expert
Civil liability covers a lot of territory, and liability, burdens of proof, and possible damages depend upon what happened and in what state. If you have questions about a particular tort or civil action, contact a lawyer with experience in personal injury or other civil litigation in your area.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Known in French-language civil law jurisdictions as la responsabilité civile and to some English authors, as delictual liability or a delictual obligations, to distinguish it from the other main branch of obligations in civil law, contracts, as well as from liability that issues from criminal law.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

It is to the civil law what tort law is to the common law.

In civil law, obligations resulting from contracts pre-supposes pre-existing legal rights or bonds between the parties.

Obligations that arise from civil liability do not. Instead, they spring from a delict, an event, such as a negligent action which causes injury to a person.

In their 1977 book on Civil Law Systems, the authors translate delictual liability simply by referring to the common law term, tort, although what might constitute a compensable tort at common law, might not be compensable in civil law under civil liability.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Civil liability arises from historic statement of law found at §1383 of the French Civil Code of 1804:

“Everyone is liable for the damage he causes not only by his acts, but also by his negligence or imprudence.”

Similarly, the German Civil Code of 1900 at §823 founded civil liability as follows:

“A person who, willfully or negligently, unlawfully injures the life, body, health, freedom, property or other right of another is bound to compensate him for any damage arising therefrom.”Civil Liability Assignment Paper

In Quebec, Book 5 of the Civil Code is entitled Obligations; Chapter 3 thereof, Civil Liability in the English version – De la responsabilté civile in the French.

The pre-194 revision of the Quebec Civil Code contained a succinct statement of civil liability:

“1053. Every person capable of discerning right from wrong is responsible for the damages caused by his fault to another, whether by positive act, imprudence, neglect or want of skill.”

That section has been written but the law, unchanged, and now presents as §1457 of the Quebec Civil Code.

Civil liability, aka delictual liability, is of Roman law origin, as is most of the civil law.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Like most law codes of the era, the Roman law was most interested in eliminating vigilante justice which often erupted into local wars and the loss of men needed for farming. Similar to the wergeld, the Romans adjusted their law to provide for financial compensation. At first, only intentional actions were compensable such as furtum (theft) and iniuria (insult). But gradually, the Roman law came to recognize negligence as compensable. The term damnum was introduced to refer to, generally, the harm caused or the compensation the victim of the delict was entitled to; what we now call damages.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

In criminal matters, it is usually the state prosecuting the defendant before a
magistrate, or a judge and jury in the Crown Court. The basic assumption in criminal
liability is that there is both a mental element and physical element to the offence.
For example, theft involves “dishonestly” which is a question of mental attitude, and
“appropriating” which is a physical act. The burden of proof for criminal offences is
that of “beyond reasonable doubt”. It should be realised that various offences in
relation to, for example, road traffic law or environmental law have been so structured
that the “mental element” is in fact not required for a conviction. This has been as a
matter of public policy to make it possible to obtain convictions which otherwise would
be very difficult. The penalties for criminal offences are fines and imprisonment, as
well as other non-custodial punishments.Civil Liability Assignment Paper
2.2 Civil liability
Civil liability gives a person rights to obtain redress from another person e.g. the
ability to sue for damages for personal injury. There is also the right to obtain an
injunction. For there to be an award of damages, the injured party has to have
suffered an actual loss, be it personal injury, damage to property, or financial loss.
The burden of proof is “the balance of probability” which is much lower than for
criminal matters.
If there has been a relevant criminal conviction in a particular matter, then the burden
of proof in any related civil action is reversed, so that the defendant has to prove he is
not liable. An example of this would be a conviction of a company for breach of
health and safety legislation, followed by the injured employee suing the company for
damages for personal injury.Civil Liability Assignment Paper
A disincentive to suing is that the losing party pays the winners costs. In fact, this
works out as a substantial proportion of the costs, rather than 100%, so a successful
plaintiff has his award of damages diminished in practical terms. As a matter of
public policy, it is not possible to have an enforceable insurance policy in relation to
criminal penalties.
2.3 Professional indemnity insurance
Water chemists working otherwise than as employees (e.g. working as independent
consultants) should take out professional indemnity insurance policies to protect
themselves from the cost of litigation and also to pay any damages awarded. It is
important that the insurance policy selected covers the policyholder for environmental
damage, as many recent policies have excluded it. In any event, failure to protect
oneself can result in financial ruin and the loss of all personal assets, including house
and savings. An important protection mechanism is to conduct one’s business
through a limited company, either through forming one’s own (see section 6.2.3
below) or by acting as a sub-contractor or employee.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Civil liability is the obligation to compensate for bodily injury or tangible or intangible damage that may be caused to a third party by the company’s belongings or staff, over the course of work completed.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

There are a number of situations in which the company’s liability may be invoked.

Civil liability laws dictate all rules that define the conditions under which victims of an accident can obtain compensation from the responsible party.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

It implies that:

Damage has been caused,
Something caused this damage,
There is a causal link between the two.

The party claiming compensation must always prove each of the three conditions.

Liability is divided into two sections: contract liability and tort/quasi-tort liability.

Contract liability is when failure to fulfill a contract causes damage.
Thus, contract liability is when there is a breach of contract (failure to fulfill contract or failure to fulfill contract to standard), that causes damage and a causal link is established between the two.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Tort/quasi-tort liability is when professional negligence causes damage to a third party who is not under contract.
The result can be civil liability:

On the grounds of having personally caused the damage (articles 1382 and 1383 of the Civil Code),
On the grounds of events (article1384 clause 1 of the Civil Code),
On the grounds of other people (article 1384 and following of the Civil Code),
On the grounds of failure to fulfill a contractual obligation, whether the work is not completed to standard or not (articles 1147 and 1137 of the Civil Code).Civil Liability Assignment Paper

In law, liable means “responsible or answerable in law; legally obligated.”[1] Legal liability concerns both civil law and criminal law and can arise from various areas of law, such as contracts, torts, taxes, or fines given by government agencies. The claimant is the one who seeks to establish, or prove, liability. Claimants can prove liability through a myriad of different theories, known as theories of liability. Which theories of liability are available in a given case depends on nature of the law in question. For example, in case involving a contractual dispute, one available theory of liability is breach of contract; or in the tort context, negligence, negligence per se, respondeat superior, vicarious liability, strict liability, or intentional conduct are all valid theories of liability.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Each theory of liability has certain conditions, or elements, that must be proven by the claimant before liability will be established. For example, the theory of negligence requires the claimant to prove that (1) the defendant had a duty; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) the defendant’s breach caused the injury; and (4) that injury resulted in recoverable damages. Theories of liability can also be created by legislation. For example, under English law, with the passing of the Theft Act 1978, it is an offense to evade a liability dishonestly. Payment of damages usually resolves the liability. A given liability may be covered by insurance. In general, however, insurance providers only cover liabilities arising from negligent torts rather than intentional wrongs or breach of contract.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

In commercial law, limited liability is a business form that shields its owners from certain types of liability and that amount a given owner will be liable for. A limited liability form separates the owner(s) from the business. This means that when a business is found liable in case, the owners are not themselves liable; rather, the business is. Thus, only the funds or property the owner(s) have invested into the business are subject to that liability. If, for example, a limited liability business goes bankrupt, then the owner(s) will not lose unrelated assets such as a personal residence (assuming they do not give personal guarantees). This is the standard model for larger businesses, in which a shareholder will only lose the amount invested (in the form of stock value decreasing). (For an explanation, see business entity.) There is an exception to this rule that allows a claimant to go after the owners of a limited liability business where the owners have engaged in conduct that justifies the claimant’s recovery from the owners. This is known as “piercing the veil.”Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Manufacturer’s liability, a legal concept in most countries, reflects the fact that producers have a responsibility not to sell a defective product. See product liability.

Heard the term a thousand times before but not sure what it means? You’re not alone. It sounds like something that belongs in a law court rather than in everyday life.

So why does it matter?

Because civil liability is very much a part of everyday life. Civil matters concern ordinary citizens, their rights and their protection so, if you’re responsible for the civil matter in question, you can be sure it’s taken very seriously. You’ll almost certainly have to Do Something About It.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

That’s especially important if you own a business, because there’s always a chance you could be on the receiving end of a civil claim.

Back to basics

At its simplest, civil liability means being responsible for actions and practices that could damage others, but which aren’t criminal. So they’re not pre-meditated or against the law.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Instead, civil liability concerns the times when there isn’t any intention to cause harm, but harm occurred anyway. If you’re a business owner, that might mean having a faulty piece of equipment that injures someone. Or doing a piece of work that’s judged not up to scratch.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

In cases like these, the person affected might decide you bear civil liability for whatever’s gone wrong, and try to claim damages. And that can leave you open to some pretty hefty compensation payments, not to mention legal costs.

It doesn’t end there either, because we’re not just talking about your defence costs. If you end up on the losing side, you’ll have to pay the claimant’s expenses too.

And did you know you can face a civil claim even after you’ve already been through a criminal prosecution – say for a breach of Health & Safety regulations? If you’re found guilty, the person who’s suffered the damage can make a second, civil claim against you for compensation. A double blow, then.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

All of which leads us neatly to another important question: is there anything you can do to protect yourself against civil claims?

Easing the pain

Yes there is.

Professional indemnity (PI) insurance is your guardian angel when it comes to claims against your business, and does the job of covering legal costs and compensation.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Well, some PI insurance does.

Because not all PI policies are created equal – which means you need to be aware exactly what your policy does and doesn’t cover. Otherwise, you could find yourself seriously out of pocket.

At the heart of professional indemnity insurance lies the distinction between policies that deal with negligence only, and those that offer full civil liability. It might not sound like much, but it makes a world of difference and it affects whether or not your business is covered for a claim against it.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

A matter of negligence

Negligence only policies catch the eye because they’re cheaper. But that’s only because they cover less. They’re only concerned with what’s in the policy wording – and that means any claim scenario not specifically mentioned is excluded.

That’s fine if negligence cover is all you need. After all, you know your business best.

But let’s say you accidently break your client’s confidence, leaking details of an under-wraps project, and she sues you for the damage caused. Depending on your policy’s wording, your insurance might not cover it.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

The other thing about negligence only policies is that they’re based on a finite pot of money. So, depending on which level of cover you’ve opted for, they’ll only cover compensation and legal fees up to that limit.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

That means, if you’re unlucky enough to be hit with two big claims that take you over your annual limit, you’ll have to find the cash to cover the overspill yourself. And that can hurt.

Taking responsibility

Civil liability policies throw the net wider and take care of both negligence-based and civil claims. They’re more or less foolproof and cover your business for any claim made against it in a civil court, for whatever reason – unless it’s explicitly excluded within the policy wording.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

That can be especially important if, say, you’re unaware new regulations have come into force, and you should have put new practices in place, but haven’t. If you’re now operating outside the regulations, no matter how innocently, and a claim comes in as a result, your civil liability still covers you.

This type of policy also pays out differently to negligence only PI. Claims are treated as standalone, so even if you make more than a single claim in a year, as long as each one falls below your maximum level of cover, it’s taken care of.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Plus, there’s another benefit. Legal costs are handled separately to any compensation due. And that means you’re covered for anything spent on your defence up to the same threshold as the overall policy – it doesn’t come out of a combined fund that also pays out compensation, and is treated independently.Civil Liability Assignment Paper

Something to think about

At the end of the day, only you can judge how likely it is your business will be on the receiving end of a civil claim.

But now you know what civil liability is, as well as why it’s relevant and what a civil claim entails, it’s a good idea to remember that the type of professional indemnity insurance you buy has important consequences, and is just as significant as the level of cover you choose.Civil Liability Assignment Paper