General Defences under Law of Torts


Defence is a term that refers to starting a conversation that leads to the court ruling in favour of the respondent in tort. It is a tool of protection that can be used to avoid debt in tort only if the activity has suitable norms attached to these excuses, and where the complainant brings out the action to the defendant with abuse, by giving the presence of all norms and conditions to harass the defendant, the defendant shall be equally liable. It allows both the respondent and the complaint to express their opinions and protect themselves from harm by taking use of these benefits. NECESSITY, MISTAKE, INEVITABLE ACCIDENT, THE WRONG DOER IS THE PLAINTIFF, and other general tort defences are possible.


1.  Volenti non fit injuria–

The literal meaning of maxims is “that to which man consents cannot be complained of as an injury.”[1] It reflects the idea that no activity is actionable as a tort at the legal action of any person who knowingly gave his assent to it, a deal is consented by both the parties knowingly, to run the injury caused by that, the other party will not have the jurisdiction to complain and profess damages or injury for any of the possibilities of risk that assented for One of the most important cases of Volenti non fit injuria is –

Hall vs. Brookland Auto Racing Club [1933] 1 K.B 205,

Hall, plaintiff was the part of the audience of a car racing program. In the ongoing event, 2 racing cars collided and one of the cars was tossed amongst the audience. The complainant was severely damaged and asked for compensation from the Defendant, Brookland Auto Racing Club. The court gave the verdict that the complainant willingly put himself at the risk of watching the event. Thus, no compensation will be validated for the plaintiff as this injury states the philosophy of volenti non fit injuria

2. The wrongdoer is the plaintiff –

In this defense, the law protects the defendant when the plaintiff herself/himself committed illegal or wrong. This forgiveness can be depicted in the Latin expression “ex turpi causa non oritur action”. One of the most important case of the wrongdoer is the plaintiff is –

 Pitts v. Hunt [1990] 3 All ER 344,

The 18 year old passenger influenced his 16 year old friend to drive faster under alcoholism. As a result of this, they met with an accident, and passenger’s friend. One of the passenger sustained serious injuries and filed a case against the driver’s relatives for compensation. This plea was rejected as the passenger was guilty of offense.

3.  Inevitable Accident –

This accident is said to be caused when the damage or injury caused is not done intentionally by the defendant and also cannot be avoided by the exercise of the ordinary activity or care. One of the most important cases of inevitable accident is –

Shridhar Tiwari v. U.P State Road Transport Corporation 2 (1986) ACC 393,

In this case, the state bus of Uttar Pradesh met with an accident when a cyclist came suddenly on the way and the bus could not stop because of heavy rainfall. As a result of this, the bus collided with another bus. It was pinned out that there was no negligence on the part of the two drivers and is the case of inevitable accident.

4. Act of god –

This is a defense which is granted when the escape, damage or injury is caused without any human force in, situation which is unforeseeable, and there is no possibility to recognize for the same

In Nichols v. Marsland (1876) 2Ex D 1,

The defendant created an artificial pond in his jurisdiction. It was built by diverting the water from natural streams. One day, there was heavy rainfall, everything was destroyed and flooded all four of the complainant or plaintiff’s bridges. The court came to a conclusion that the defendant was not guilty as it is a case of Act of God.

5. Private Defense –

A person is always in the authorization to use appropriate amount of force for protection of one’s property, thus in this situation Right to Private Defense comes into the picture.

Bird v. Holbrook, 130 Eng. Rep. 911 (C.P. 1825)

In this case, the respondent, Mr. Holbrook had a farm where he grew tulips. But one day there was robbery in his farm and he incurred loss of Rs. 20 pound. S o in order to protect his garden, he secured the place by putting spring gun without notice. A 19 year old boy named Bird with no intention of robbery mistakenly entered the garden and got hurt. The court comes to a conclusion that the defendant was liable because he placed spring guns without knowledge and was responsible to pay for the damages.

6. Mistake –

It is a defense which prevents the claimant from issuing the component of the said action in which the plaintiff is sued.

Morrison v. Ritchie and Company [1902] SLR 39_432

The defendant, Ritchie and Company was accused of defamation for publishing that the Couple Morrisons had twin babies in good belief. The reality was, the couple tied knot just before 2 months. The respondent was held responsible for defamation and the immaterial of good sense in such circumstances.

7. Necessity –

This is a defense which gives relaxation by giving an opportunity to do an activity when it is absolutely necessary. In that case, he will not be considering liable for the consequences of the same even if the loss is incurred. It is divided into

Public Necessity

Private Necessity

Regina v Dudley and Stephens (1884) 14 QBD 273-

Dudley, Brook, Stephens, and Parker together were in a boat at sea without any food. After few days, it was suggested by Dudley and Stephens that one person sacrifice himself so that rest could survive. But it was resisted by Brook of killing Parker since he was youngest. The two of them killed Parker to sustain themselves. Later, they were rescued and Stephens and Dudley were charged of murder. It was stated that the necessity of hunger is not justified.

8. Statutory Authority

 This is a defense which comes into effect when a person is empowered to take part in a behavior that composes in tort. There are many cases of this defense which mainly bothers about accountability for nuisance. The authority is of two types –

  1. Absolute Authority

  2. Conditional Authority

 Smith v. The London and South Western Railway Company (L.R.6 C.P. 14 [1870])

In this case, the workers of the company accidently forgot to remove the trimming of the hedges close to the railway line. As a result of this, the lightening of the engine caused fire and was spread to all of the plaintiff’s houses. The court gave the verdict that that the railway company was liable and responsible to pay to the plaintiff for his damage.


This article focuses on the several General Defenses clauses that have a role in avoiding responsibility in torts. It is a set of ‘excuses’ that may be used to evade responsibilities. To prevent liability in any filed case, the complainant files a case and sues the respondent for a specific tort in which all fundamental ingredients are present, and the respondent is then held liable for the harm or injury. It highlights all defences with landmark instances of the associated provisions, which are offered and raised based on the facts and circumstances of a certain case. As a result of these benefits, both parties are able to explain their cause and reaction in each scenario. General Defenses are a highly essential category under Tort Law since it establishes structures and redefines numerous phrases that bring clarity to a specific issue. In addition, will deliver proper justice to the parties concerned in any matter.


[1] P.S.A Pillai, Law of Tort with law of statutory compensation and consumer protection, (Revised by Avtar Singh), Eastern Book Publication – 9th edition, 2008.

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