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The law of obligations concerns the legal rights and duties owed between people. Three primary categories make up the common law of obligations: tort, contract, and unjust enrichment. This coursebook provides an introduction to tort law: the law that recognises and responds to civil wrongdoing. The material is arranged in two parts. Part I comprises §§1-11 and addresses intentional and dignitary torts and the overarching theories and goals of tort law. Part II comprises §§12-25 and addresses no-fault compensation schemes, negligence, nuisance, strict liability, and tort law’s place within our broader legal systems.
Themes explored within this coursebook include:
• Tort law is grounded in community standards and values.
• Rights of action in private law afford plaintiffs the right to sue.
• Our common law constitution assumes equality of all (including public officials) under law.
• The common law develops incrementally: precedent upon precedent.
• The common law is a dialogue taking place over time within and between jurisdictions.
Notable illustrations of these themes include the High Court of Australia’s judgment in Binsaris v. Northern Territory (§2.2.4) recognising incarcerated indigenous youths’ claims of unlawful battery by prison officers; the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment in R v. Le (§2.4.4) addressing police racial profiling, trespass, and false imprisonment; the opinion dissenting from the Supreme Court of the United States’ denial of certiorari in Baxter v. Bracey (§188.8.131.52) concerning the US doctrine of qualified immunity from constitutional tort liability for government officers; and the Ontario Court of Appeal’s judgment in Cloud v. Canada (§19.7.2) certifying a class action of First Nations residential school survivors’ claims in negligence, battery, and assault.
While primarily focussing on case law from Canadian courts, this coursebook incorporates judgments from comparative common law jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, India, and New Zealand, as well as extracts of commentaries from the world’s leading tort law scholars.
Teaching and learning from this coursebook:
This coursebook is designed to complement the 1L curriculum in common law Canadian law schools. It does not try to present an exhaustive overview of all of Canadian tort law. Instead, it focusses on the central doctrines and topics that are most commonly taught in 1L torts courses.
The cases have been selected and curated to help build up in-depth understanding of material over a course while minimising the amount of ‘new’ cases students must learn. For example, the case of Lu v. Shen, 2020 BCSC 490, appears across six cross-referenced sections addressing the topics of intentional infliction of mental suffering (§3.2.4), invasion of privacy (§4.3.3), defamation (§5.1.3), harassment (§5.2.3), general compensatory damages (§9.3.9), and permanent injunctions (§184.108.40.206). The case of Barnett v. Chelsea & Kensington Hospital  2 WLR 422 (QB) appears in the sections on standard of duty of care (§220.127.116.11), breach of duty of care (§18.104.22.168), but-for causation (§16.1.3), and vicarious liability (§23.1.5).
The coursebook was designed with flexibility in mind. Each chapter is largely self-contained so that teachers can assign topics to suit their syllabi. The edited cases link back to original judgment transcripts on open-access platforms. Extracts of relevant British Columbia statutes are accompanied by lists of all other provinces’ equivalent statutes.
Readers who wish to delve deeper will benefit from the links to podcasts 🎧, videos 📺, blogs, news, articles, and books on relevant topics that appear in the Further material sections.
Quizzes and problem exercises:
Students may complete multiple-choice quizzes and guided exam answer exercises based on the coursebook content by visiting https://blogs.ubc.ca/beswick/torts-quizzes/.
Locate the Document
Online at 2021 CanLIIDocs 1859 <https://canlii.ca/t/t9st>
Samuel Beswick, Tort Law: Cases and Commentaries, 2nd ed (Ottawa: Canadian Legal Information Institute, 2023)