Understanding the Basics of Tort Law
“Tort” is basically an old-fashioned way to refer to damages in the legal world. A tort is any civil wrong inflicted by one person, entity, or business on another person. In most cases, damages only include financial compensation, as a tort is a civil wrong rather than a criminal offense.
There are many different types of tort cases. Most of them occur when a person is negligent and that negligence causes some sort of injury or harm to another individual. The legal theory of negligence is at the root of the majority of tort cases, including auto accident claims, medical malpractice claims, and dangerous and defective products lawsuits.
There are also “intentional tort” cases, in which damage arises from purposeful actions. Intentional torts may be considered crimes in some circumstances, meaning a single intentional action could give rise to both a criminal and a civil lawsuit. Assault, for example, often results in both civil and criminal actions.
Municipalities may be liable in tort cases
It’s not just people and businesses that can be held liable in tort cases. Municipalities (including cities, towns, counties) may also be named defendants in these lawsuits.
Under the West Virginia Governmental Tort Claims and Insurance Reform Act, a municipality is “not liable in damages in a civil action for injury, death or loss to persons or property allegedly caused by any act or omission” of a city employee or municipality. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If the injury, loss or death was due to the negligent operation of a motor vehicle, negligent job performance by a city employee, negligent maintenance of public spaces or other general negligence by the municipality or its employees, that municipality could be held liable.