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LAWS3078 Law of Torts

Module Overview

The ‘law of torts’ is less unified than many of the core subjects studied, and includes a broad range of torts protecting a variety of different interests. The course itself falls into two parts. The first part introduces the broad range of torts, and then focuses on the fundamental principles of liability with particular reference to negligence. The second part of the course considers other torts (e.g., nuisance, the rule in Rylands v Fletcher, defamation, breach of confidence), special liability regimes (e.g., occupiers’ liability, vicarious liability), and current issues of particular difficulty and importance in respect of tort law. The basic principles learnt in the first part of the course are applied and consolidated. This part of the course is mostly organised around fortnightly blocks; generally of four lectures and two tutorials (the second of which in each cycle will focus on tackling a practice question). Tutorials will run weekly throughout both semesters. The topics studied demand thinking across the categories of law encountered during the degree course, and are therefore especially appropriate for second year students. Sessions on economic loss and public authority liability expressly consider the boundaries of tort law given the presence of contractual and public law influences; and sessions on defamation, privacy/confidence, nuisance and public authority liability focus on the human rights implications of tort law. Although many of these topics centre upon the tort of negligence, this focus is by no means exclusive, and a number of other torts (such as breach of statutory duty) are drawn in where appropriate. This part of the course is therefore organised around issues, rather than around a succession of discrete torts per se. Students are encouraged to consider and evaluate the role, nature, and functions of tort law, as well as its technical rules.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To provide you with: • A knowledge and understanding of the major principles of a broad range of torts in outline, and the interests they protect; and to provide you with a sound knowledge and understanding of selected issues of central importance to the Law of Torts; • A knowledge and understanding of the relevance of questions of exclusion, limitation and remedies in the Law of Torts, and the links between tort and other legal topics; • An opportunity to develop skills of analysis and synthesis of a wide range of both traditional legal and other primary sources, and relevant academic commentaries.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The functions of tort law; report on some empirical evidence concerning its success as a system of compensation for accidents, and evaluate the arguments for significant reform of tort law in this context.
  • the key principles of the torts of negligence, nuisance, and defamation, including principles of liability and defences; determine answers to hypothetical problems concerning these torts; and appreciate key decisions in these torts.
  • the relevance of questions of exclusion and limitation in the Law of Torts.
  • stating the basic principles relevant to other selected torts, e.g. breach of statutory duty, and recognise and explain their relevance and influence in the key areas studied.
  • discussing tort remedies, and determine which heads are recoverable in hypothetical problem questions.
  • exploring the areas of overlap between different torts, and critically compare their underlying principles in relevant respects.
  • examining and explain the links between tort and other legal topics, especially contract, public law, and human rights, and understand the role of tort law in these respects.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse and assess legal materials by way of case analysis (and some statutory interpretation) and review of secondary materials to identify, comprehend and evaluate fundamental legal principles and their impact upon contemporary issues.
  • identify from a given factual scenario: the relevant legal facts and issues raised; explain the law applicable to the identified legal issues; apply the relevant law to the facts; examine uncertainties in the law and its application to the given facts and evaluate alternative approaches and arguments; provide adequate support by reference to legal authority.
  • produce effectively reasoned and structured responses to given propositions, drawing on appropriate legal authorities to support assertions.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify, locate and analyse primary and secondary legal sources in order to identify key legal principles and policy arguments, including strengths and weaknesses in competing arguments (including academic and policy arguments) and recognise the limits of certainty in legal principle.
  • examine factual situations (generally hypothetical) and produce reasoned arguments for proposed legal solutions.
  • produce a clear, orderly, and well-structured account of aspects of the law and of proposed solutions to legal questions, especially in areas where solutions are open to question and argument.


Negligence – standard of care, breach of duty, causation, remoteness, defences. Compensation Psychiatric harm Public body liability Vicarious liability Economic Loss Defamation and developments in the law regarding privacy Nuisance and the rule in Rylands v Fletcher Occupiers’ liability

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will be by two lectures and one tutorial per week. Please consult the 'Lecture and Tutorial Outline' document (on Blackboard) for specific details. The tutorials are intended as occasions for detailed discussion of specific topics within the broader areas covered in lectures, and you are expected to come fully prepared. Reading, questions and all the cases required for preparation will be placed on Blackboard in advance of each tutorial. Tutorials are also occasions for you to raise problems and questions and to obtain feedback on your progress. In semester two you will have the opportunity to go through sample questions in dedicated tutorials. Lectures will develop: • The structure of the subject and the key applicable principles, policies and rules of law in relation to the Law of Torts; PowerPoint presentations and handouts are provided and are loaded onto Blackboard after the lectures. • Key areas of development, uncertainty and controversy in recent decisions and (where relevant) policy-making and statutory reform; • An explanation and analysis of links between the Law of Torts and other legal topics. Preparation for and participation in tutorials will develop: • Your ability to discuss key principles and their limitations with your peers; • Your ability to develop and sustain reasoned arguments, in general and in relation to specific problem scenarios; • Your ability to manage a range of sources, to review and evaluate complex material; • Your time management and research skills.

Completion of assessment task40
Wider reading or practice20
Preparation for scheduled sessions93
Follow-up work20
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Steele (2014). Tort Law: Text, Cases and Materials. 

Lunney & Oliphant (2013). Tort Law: Text and materials. 

Cane (2013). Atiyah’s Accidents, Compensation and the Law. 

Mulheron (2016). Principles of Tort Law. 

Weir (2006). An Introduction to Tort Law. 

Witting (2015). Street on Torts. 

McBride and Bagshaw (2015). Tort Law. 

Peel & Goudkamp (2014). Winfield and Jolowicz on Tort. 

Blackstone (2015-16 (or 2016/17)). Blackstone's Statutes on Contract, Tort and Restitution. 



Set exercises - non-exam


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 25%
Exam  (3 hours) 75%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 25%
Exam  (3 hours) 75%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (3 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the core/recommended text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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