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This Article is written by Tushar of Shree Guru Gobind Singh Tricentenary University, Gurgaon, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


The article offers a comprehensive look at tort law and defences against tort claims. It starts with an introduction to the topic, explaining what torts and tort law are. It also clarifies the roles of the plaintiff the injured party and the defendant the party accused of causing the injury and what a defence entails. Then, it dives into common defences in taught law, focusing on two key ones, plaintiff’s own fault and unavoidable acts of nature.

The explanations for these defences are clear and easy to follow, making the legal concepts accessible. Additionally, the article uses real world cases to illustrate how these defences play out in court. It concludes with a reference list, solidifying its credibility as a learning tool for this legal area. This article serves as a valuable guide for anyone interested in law or studying these topics, particularly those seeking to understand the two core defences of plaintiff’s fault and acts of nature in tort law. By delving into this article, readers can gain a deeper grasp of these important legal concepts.


Tort Law, Defences, Plaintiff’s default, Legal remedy, Act of God, Default, Civil wrong, Compensation, Liability, Plaintiff.


Tort law exists to prevent situations where someone gets stuck with the blame for something they didn’t do. Imagine being unfairly accused and punished for accidentally injuring a child in a crowded space, even though you didn’t mean to cause any harm. Tort law protects against these situations, even holding you accountable for unintended consequences of your action.

Tort law plays a key role in our legal system. It tackles civil wrongs, offering away for people and businesses to seek compensation when others actions cause harm. An important part of tort law is the concept of defences. These defences allow those accused defendants to reduce or even avoid being held responsible liable for the damage they caused.

Tort law is crucial because it ensures fairness when harm happens. It tackles civil wrongs, allowing people and businesses to seek compensation. Importantly, there are defences that can reduce or eliminate blame for the accused defendant. Two key defences are when the injured person contributed to their own harm and when unavoidable events, like natural disasters, cause harm. Understanding these defences is essential to see how the legal system strives for fairness.

The law sometimes lets defendants off the hook if the person suing him the plaintiff was acting illegally or carelessly themselves. This idea comes from a Latin saying that means no lawsuit arises from a wrongful act. Basically, if you’re hurt because you were doing something you shouldn’t have been, you might be out of luck. This defence isn’t just for tort cases injury lawsuits. It can also apply to contracts getting money back for something restitution property disputes and even trusts.


In tort law, defendants have options to fight accusations of wrongdoing. These defences can lessen or even eliminate any punishment for harm they might have caused. They protect the defendant’s rights and stop them from being unfairly blamed for things they couldn’t control. Even if a defendant did something wrong, there might be reasons why they shouldn’t be held fully responsible. However, these defences only apply in certain situations and aren’t guaranteed to work. Here are some common defences used in tort law[1].

  1. Volenti non-fit Injuria: One defence is called “Volenti non-fit injuria”, which means basically “no injury is done to someone who consents”. But for this to apply, the consent must be freely given and the person suing the plaintiff must have known exactly what they were getting into. There can’t be any tricks lies or pressure involved. For example, if you take a driving test and crash, you can’t sue the company because you willingly took the risk.
  2. Necessity: Another defence is “necessity”. This one applies when the defendant has to do something wrong to prevent something even worse from happening. Imagine someone throws a dangerous object onto someone’s property, putting the owner at risk. If someone else trespasses on the property to remove the object, even though trespassing is wrong, they can use the necessity defence because they were preventing a greater harm.
  3. Act of God: Imagine an event so powerful it catches even the most prepared person off guard. This is what we’re talking about natural occurrences like earthquakes, tornadoes and floods that erupt unexpectedly and with devastation force. These are the forces of nature that no reasonable person could ever hope to prevent.
  4. Plaintiff the wrongdoer: This defence argues that the injured person shares some blame for their own misfortune. Because of this, they might not receive full compensation, especially if their own action were a major cause of the injury. Imagine a driver on the wrong side of the road getting into an accident. Their ability to sue for damages might be hurt by their own negligence.
  5. Mistake: Sometimes defendants mess up, but not because they meant to cause harm. This defence applies when someone makes a genuine mistake about an important fact, the kind of mistake any reasonable fact, the kind of mistake any reasonable person could make. In these situations, the defendants might not be held fully responsible for the harm caused.
  6. Statutory Authority: If a law allows you to do something, or if the government itself tell you to do it, you generally can’t be held liable for the consequences. This defence applies when following a law or official order leads to an action that might otherwise be considered harmful.
  7. Private Defence: The law recognises your right to protect yourself and your belongings. You can use self-defence to stop someone from hurting you or taking your stuff, but the force you use needs to be reasonable. Imagine someone throwing punches you can fight back, but pulling a weapon would be too much. In other words, your response should match the threat.


The legal principle “Ex turpi causa non oritur action” basically says that if your lawsuit stems from your own wrongdoing, you’re out of luck. This applies to contracts-if the agreement itself is illegal the court won’t enforce it and you can’t sue for damages[2].

In other words, a defendant can argue that the plaintiffs own bad actions prevent them from winning the case. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the defendant gets off Scott free. There might be other legal grounds for the plaintiff to sue, just not based on the original unlawful contract. Interestingly, there’s a historical case (Bird vs Holbrook) where the plaintiff, despite setting dangerous spring guns without warning on his property, was actually allowed to recover damages he suffered from someone getting hurt by them. This seems counterintuitive but it highlights that the “unclean hands” doctrine isn’t always a complete defence for the defendant.

In a case called Pitts vs Hunt[3], a situation arose where an 18-year-old passenger on a motorcycle encouraged his 16-year-old friend to drive recklessly under the influence of alcohol. Tragically, the motorcycle crashed and the driver died. The passenger, who suffered serious injuries, attempted to sue the deceased driver’s relatives for compensation.  However, the court rejected his claim because they considered him a contributor to the accident due to his own poor judgment.

An accident is an unexpected injury, but in some cases. It can be completely unavoidable. It happens when all reasonable care and precaution are taken by the person being blamed (the defendant), but the injury still occurs. In this situation the defendant can argue they’re not liable because the harm is impossible to prevent and there is no intention to cause it.

A Court case, Assam State Coop., etc. Federation Limited vs Smt. Anubha Sinha 2001[4], dealt with a situation where a tenant defendant rented a property with faulty electrical wiring. Despite the tenant’s requests for repairs, the landlord plaintiff neglected to fix the issue. Unfortunately, a short circuit caused a fire in the house. The court said that, because the fire wasn’t the tenant’s fault. Since the tenant had brought the problem to the landlord’s attention and the landlord failed to take action the tenant wasn’t held liable for the damage.

In a 1987 case, Shridhar Tiwari vs U.P. State Road Transport Corporation, a bus driver for U.P.S.R.T.C. encountered a cyclist who swerved in front of the bus on a rainy road. Despite applying the brakes, the driver couldn’t stop in time and the bus hit another one coming from the opposite direction. The court ruled this an inevitable accident because the cyclist sudden appearance and the wet road conditions were unavoidable factors and both drivers took all reasonable measures to prevent the collision. This meant U.P.S.R.T.C. wasn’t found liable for the accident.

In an 1850 case, Brown vs Kendall, two dogs, one belonging to each man, got into a fight. The defendant tried to break up the brawl, but in the process accidentally whacked the plaintiff in the eye with a stick, causing serious injury. The court says that the injury happened despite the defendant’s attempt to intervene. Since it wasn’t the defendant’s fault and he wasn’t acting carelessly, he wasn’t held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.


An “Act of God” describes an extremely unlikely event, like an earthquake or hurricane, that no reasonable person could have prevented. This concept also called “Vis Major” which means “superior force” in Latin, can be used as a legal defence. Basically, it excuses one or both parties involved in an agreement from being held liable for damages if those damages were caused by something completely out of their control.

An “Act of God” defence only works if two things are true. First, the damage has to be caused by natural disaster, like a flood or earthquake. Second nobody could have seen it coming and prepared for it no matter how hard they tried. This defence is helpful when unforeseeable events cause damage[5].

Acts of God have been around since forever-natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires. These whoppers cause sudden, violent destruction, leaving people and property in their wake. When these disasters strike it’s a shock to everyone involved, victims and those accused of wrongdoing alike.

In legal cases defendants love to claim act of God as a defence. But it’s not a free pass. To use this defence successfully, they need to prove it was the direct cause of the damage not just something that might have contributed. They also need to show they acted like a reasonable person in that crazy situation.


Natural Causes

Acts of God are essentially uncommon, powerful and unforeseen events caused by nature. These misfortunes arise from unavoidable circumstances, beyond the realm of what reasonable human anticipation and caution could prevent. They’re the opposite of ordinary causes which are predictable and preventable with a little care. A leaky roof during a rainstorm is a foreseeable event for example. if someone neglects to address foreseeable problems and suffers as a result, that’s considered negligence. Acts of God however, are so extraordinary in lack human involvement that even reasonable precautions wouldn’t have stopped the consequences. In these cases, any resulting damages wouldn’t be compensable.

An Occurrence Not Reasonably Foreseeable

The key to an act of God is that it’s completely unexpected. If an accident could have been foreseen and prevented, the injured party can rightfully seek compensation. But act of God are uncontrollable forces of nature, so unforeseen and unavoidable that even the most careful person couldn’t have stopped the damage. In these cases, because foresight and caution wouldn’t have made a difference, compensation isn’t available.

Courts are picky about the act of God defence. The event has to be so incredibly unusual that it couldn’t have been anticipated, even considering the entire history of climate patterns in that area. In other words, if similar events have happened before, even way back in the past, it’s not an act of God. To convince the court, you might even need expert testimony proving how unforeseeable the event truly was.

It is Impossible To Prevent By Any Reasonable Precaution And Absence Of Human Agency Causing The Alleged Damage

The act of God defence isn’t magic shield. It only applies to truly unstoppable events. If there’s any human involvement in the incident, even if the harm itself was unavoidable, the defence gets trickier. To succeed, you’d have to prove the person acted with reasonable care to prevent the harm. Negligence, or failing to take those precaution, blows a hole in the act of God defence. So, if a poorly maintained tree falls on someone, the owner can’t claim an act of God to avoid responsibility, they should have taken care of the tree.

Case Law: Shridhar Tiwari vs. UP State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC)[6]

A bus was driving through a village when a cyclist swerved in front of it out of nowhere. The driver slammed on the break to avoid hitting the cyclist, but the road was wet and the bus skidded. The back of the bus then hit the front of another bus (USA 8037). In this case the court ruled that the bus driver wasn’t responsible for the accident because it was a completely unforeseeable event an inevitable accident.


This article explained two important defences in taught law plaintiff’s default and Act of God. We looked at real-world examples to understand these concepts better. Plaintiff’s default basically means you can’t sue someone if you caused your own injury. An Act of God is a super unlikely event, like a hurricane, that frees people involved in an agreement from blame if it damages something.

On the other hand, an Act of God defence protects people from being blamed for things caused by super unlikely natural disasters. Even if they did everything they could to be prepared, these events are just out of human control. This article gives you the tools you need to understand these defences better, so you can deal with legal issues more effectively. By explaining these principles we’re helping you navigate legal challenges and protect your rights.


[1] https://lawbhoomi.com/general-defences-in-tort/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaintiff

[3] (1991) 1 QB 24

[4] (2001) 2 CIVLJ 569

[5] Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/act-of-God

[6] 2(1986) ACC393

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