20 Answers: Terminology of Tort Law

Here are the answers to the exercise on tort law terminology published in my previous (March 22, 2018) blog entry:

1) A person who commits a tort: TORTFEASOR

2) An act of force or threat of force that puts a person in fear of imminent harm: ASSAULT

3) Defense against negligence that states that the plaintiff knew of the risk involved and still took the chance of being injured: ASSUMPTION OF RISK

4) An act that annoys or disturbs another person in his use, possession or enjoyment of his property: NUISANCE

5) Liability imposed upon a person due to the act or omission of another: VICARIOUS LIABILITY

6) Unauthorized entry or intrusion on the real property of another: TRESPASS

7) A false statement of fact designed to deceive: MISREPRESENTATION

8) A false and malicious publication (printing, writing, sign, picture) that harms another’s reputation: LIBEL

9) The intentional and offensive touching of another without consent and without lawful justification: ASSAULT

10) Wrongfully depriving a person of the use and possession of an item of personal property: CONVERSION

11) Deceit or deception intended to induce another to surrender something of value or a legal right: FRAUD

12) A false and malicious statement that harms another’s reputation: SLANDER

13) The liability of a manufacturer or seller for injury resulting from a defect in a product sold: PRODUCT LIABILITY

14) Mental anguish or physical pain for which damages may be recovered in tort litigation: PAIN AND SUFFERING

15) A private wrong committed by one person against another: TORT

16) Liability for an injury whether or not there is fault or negligence: STRICT LIABILITY (also called ABSOLUTE LIABILITY or LIABILITY WITHOUT FAULT)

17) A legal doctrine under which a master (employer) is responsible for torts committed by his servants (employees) during the scope of their employment: DOCTRINE OF RESPONDEAT SUPERIOR

18) Two or more people who participate together in the commission of a tort: JOINT TORTFEASORS

19) Wrongful; implying or involving tort: TORTIOUS

20) The intentional confinement of a person without legal justification: FALSE IMPRISONMENT or FALSE ARREST

 

20 Questions: Terminology of the Law of Torts

This is an exercise that I use with my students of Legal English at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. After finishing each unit, we often review dictionary definitions of the legal terms and concepts that we’ve discussed in class to make sure they’re clear. Several students who follow this blog suggested that I might make exercises of this nature available here in the event that they may prove useful to other readers.

This first exercise concerns “Tort Law,” akin to the legal discipline that in Spain is most-commonly known as Derecho de daños, i.e., el Derecho de la responsabilidad civil extracontractual). So, here goes…

Please provide a tort law term for the following definitions (Answers will be published in my next blog entry):

1) A person who commits a tort:

2) An act of force or threat of force that puts a person in fear of imminent harm:

3) Defense against negligence that states that the plaintiff knew of the risk involved and still took the chance of being injured:

4) An act that annoys or disturbs another person in his use, possession or enjoyment of his property:

5) Liability imposed upon a person due to the act or omission of another:

6) Unauthorized entry or intrusion on the real property of another:

7) A false statement of fact designed to deceive:

8) A false and malicious publication (printing, writing, sign, picture) that damages another’s reputation:

9) The intentional and offensive touching of another without consent and without lawful justification:

10) Wrongfully depriving a person of the use and possession of an item of personal property:

11) Deceit or deception intended to induce another to surrender something of value or a legal right:

12) A false and malicious statement that harms another’s reputation:

13) The liability of a manufacturer or seller for injury resulting from a defect in a product sold:

14) Mental anguish or physical pain for which damages may be recovered in tort litigation:

15) A private wrong committed by one person against another:

16) Liability for an injury whether or not there is fault or negligence:

17) A legal doctrine under which a master (employer) is responsible for torts committed by his servants (employees) during the scope of their employment:

18) Two or more people who participate together in the commission of a tort:

19) Wrongful; implying or involving tort:

20) The intentional confinement of a person without legal justification:

False Friends: evicción ; “eviction”

Evicción and “eviction” are truely false cognates. En English “eviction” denotes “the act or process of legally dispossessing a person of land or rental property” (Black’s Law Dictionary). The corresponding term in Spanish is desahucio, as in desahucio del inquilino por impago del alquiler (“eviction of the tenant for failure to pay the rent”) or desahucio del arrendatario por expiración del contrato de arrendamiento (“eviction of the tenant upon expiration of the lease”).

In contrast, in Spanish evicción refers to the loss of title to or possession of property due to a third party’s superior title. Thus, in the context of real estate sales, the often-mistranslated expression saneamiento por evicción denotes a type of “warranty of title,” “warranty of good title” or “warranty against loss of title,” i.e., the seller’s guarantee to the buyer he will enjoy undisturbed legal possession of the purchased property (posesión legal y pacífica de lo vendido). If, after the sale, a court rules that another person holds superior title (mejor derecho) to the property, the seller must compensate the buyer as established by law.* Likewise, in the context of lease agreements saneamiento por evicción constitutes a “warranty of quiet enjoyment,” that is, the lessor’s guarantee that the lessee will enjoy undisturbed possession (que no será perturbado en su posesión) of the premises for the duration of the lease.

*In that regard, buyers’ rights in Spain are explained in detail in this article on Saneamiento por evicción en la compraventa: http://cortesyperez.blogspot.com.es/2012/09/el-saneamiento-por-eviccion-en-la.html

 

Mistranslations of Ministerio Fiscal and Ministerio Público

Several Spanish web sources and a monograph published in English on the Spanish legal system translate Ministerio Fiscal literally as “Fiscal Ministry,” and this rendering may prompt readers unfamiliar with Spanish institutions to assume that the Ministerio Fiscal is in some way related to taxes or the tax authorities. In English “fiscal” often denotes “of or relating to financial matters, public finance or taxation” (Black’s Law Dictionary) and, thus, the literal translation “Fiscal Ministry” may indeed erroneously suggest that the Ministerio Fiscal is a Ministerio para asuntos fiscales or “Tax Ministry.”

But in fact Ministerio Fiscal (as well as Ministerio Público and Fiscalía) all refer to Spain’s “Public Prosecution Service,” (or) “Office of the Public Prosecutor,” and in this context a fiscal is a “public prosecutor” (called “district attorney” in many US jurisdictions). In summary (and despite the name), the Ministerio Fiscal is not a government ministry and is totally unrelated to taxation, the term simply denoting Spain’s autonomous “Public Prosecution Service.” In contrast, as a part of the Ministerio de Economía y Hacienda (“Ministry of Economy and the Treasury”) the Agencia Tributaria is Spain’s tax service, similar to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the US or HM Revenue & Customs (formerly Inland Revenue) in the UK.

Likewise, Ministerio Público has also often been translated literally as “Public Ministry,” and even as “ministerial office.” But, once again, these renderings fail to convey the fact that Ministerio Público is simply another term for Ministerio Fiscal.

For US audiences Ministerio Fiscal, Ministerio Público and Fiscalía have sometimes been translated as “Justice Department” or “Attorney General’s Office,” and Fiscal General del Estado has often been rendered as “Attorney General.” But, once again, these may not be accurate renderings for those Spanish institutions. The position of the Department of Justice within the executive branch of the US government is actually more akin to the Spanish Ministerio de Justicia. While the Attorney General is part of the US President’s Cabinet (as is the Ministro de Justicia who sits on the government’s Consejo de Ministros), as underscored above, the Ministerio Fiscal (despite being called a “ministerio”) is an autonomous entity that is not a government ministry at all. Moreover, the Fiscal General del Estado is not a cabinet member (miembro del Consejo de Ministros), but rather may perhaps be described as the “Chief Public Prosecutor” or “Head of the Public Prosecution Service.” Thus, “Public Prosecution Service” would again appear to be a more accurate translation for Ministerio Fiscal, Ministerio Público and Fiscalía, even for US readers. And, in other respects, rendering these three terms as “Crown Prosecution Service” for UK audiences may likewise be equally inappropriate, since criminal prosecutions in Spain are not brought “on behalf of the Crown” as they are in the UK and other Commonwealth countries.