Tort Law: Cases and Commentaries

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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 casebook provides an introduction to tort law: the law that recognises and responds to civil wrongdoing. The material is arranged in two main parts. Following a brief introduction (§1), the first main part addresses intentional, dignitary and dishonesty torts as well as corresponding defences and remedies (§2-§10). The focus pivots with a consideration of the overarching theories and goals of tort law (§11) and no-fault compensation schemes as an alternative to tort liability (§12). The second main part addresses negligence, nuisance, strict liability, and further defences and remedial doctrines (§13-§23). The casebook concludes with two chapters that explore the place of common law tort within our broader legal systems (§24-§25).

This casebook was compiled and edited by Assistant Professor Samuel Beswick of the University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law. Maddison Zapach (J.D. 2023) assisted on the first edition published in July 2021. We gratefully acknowledge the influence on our approach to this subject of Professor Joost Blom QC of the Allard School of Law, Professor John C.P. Goldberg of Harvard Law School, and Associate Professor Rosemary Tobin of the University of Auckland Faculty of Law. The support of Open UBC and the UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund is also gratefully acknowledged.

Gabriella Pasolli (J.D. expected 2025), Lillian Callender (J.D. expected 2025), Joey He (J.D. expected 2026) and Malik Dhami (J.D. expected 2026) assisted on the 2024 edition.


Themes explored within this casebook 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 (§2.4.5) addressing police racial profiling, trespass, and wrongful detention; the opinion dissenting from the Supreme Court of the United States’ denial of certiorari in Baxter v. Bracey (§ 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 (§19.7.1) certifying a class action of First Nations residential school survivors’ claims in negligence, battery, and assault.

While primarily focussing on Canadian case law, this casebook incorporates judgments from comparative common law jurisdictions, including Hong Kong, India, Kenya, New Zealand, and Singapore, as well as excerpts of and links to commentaries from the world’s leading tort law scholars.

Teaching and learning from this casebook

This casebook is designed to complement the teaching of tort law in common law Canadian law schools. Rather than presenting an exhaustive treatment of the subject, the content focusses on the central doctrines and topics.

The cases have been selected and curated to help build up understanding of concepts and material over a course. One way this is achieved is by returning to different portions of judgments across topics. For example, the case of Gokey v. Usher & Parsons appears across twelve cross-referenced sections addressing the topics of battery (§2.2.1), assault (§2.3.3), statutory invasion of privacy (§4.2.3), harassment (§5.2.6), trespass to land (§7.1.2), non-pecuniary damages (§9.3.4), aggravated damages (§9.4.3), punitive damages (§9.5.4), permanent injunctions (§, intimidation (§10.2.1), private nuisance (§21.1.3), and legal costs (§20.8.1). The case of Lu v. Shen appears in the sections on intentional infliction of mental suffering (§3.2.5), invasion of privacy (§4.2.4), defamation (§5.1.1), harassment (§5.2.3), non-pecuniary damages (§9.3.8), and permanent injunctions (§ Hill v. Hamilton-Wentworth Police Services Board appears in the sections on duty of care (§, standard of care (§, breach of duty (§, damage (§15.2.1), and but-for causation (§16.1.3).

The casebook is designed with flexibility in mind. Each chapter is largely self-contained so that instructors can assign sections to suit their syllabi. The edited cases link back to original judgment transcripts on open-access platforms. Extracts of relevant Federal and British Columbia statutes are accompanied by lists of other provinces’ equivalent statutes.

Dinkuses (“***”) indicate where content has been edited out. To aid classroom discussion, paragraph numbering has been added to case excerpts where it was not already included in the original transcript.

To aid comprehension, each reading is followed by the editor’s Reflection questions. Students may find it helpful to review these questions before reading the case or material that they reflect on. Students can find past exams, multiple-choice quizzes and guided exam answer exercises based on the casebook content by visiting

Readers who wish to delve deeper can follow the links to podcasts 🎧, videos 📺, blogs, news, articles, and books on relevant topics that are cited and hyperlinked in the Further material sections.

Instructors may subscribe to a mailing list for edition updates.

Recommended reference reading on Canadian tort law

•         E. Chamberlain, S. Pitel, A. Botterell, M. McInnes, J. Neyers & Z. Sinel, Introduction to the Canadian Law of Torts (4th ed, Toronto: LexisNexis, 2020).

•         E. Chamberlain, S. Pitel, A. Botterell, M. McInnes, J. Neyers & Z. Sinel, Fridman’s The Law of Torts in Canada (4th ed, Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2020).

•         G.H.L. Fridman, Torts: A Guide for the Perplexed (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2017).

•         L. Klar & C. Jefferies, Tort Law (7th ed, Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2023).

•         A. Linden, B. Feldthusen, M. Hall, E. Knutsen & H. Young, Canadian Tort Law (12th ed, Toronto: LexisNexis, 2022).

•         M.H. Kerr, J. Kurtz & L.M. Olivo, Canadian Tort Law in a Nutshell (5th ed, Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2019).

•         P.H. Osborne, The Law of Torts (6th ed, Toronto: Irwin Law, 2020).

•         S. Shields, Is That Legal? Torts,

Recommended reading on succeeding as a first-year law student

•         B. Friedman & J.C.P. Goldberg, Open Book: The Inside Track to Law School Success (2nd ed, New York: Wolters Kluwer, 2016).

•         JD Advising, “A Case Brief Template” (2020) and “An In-Depth Guide to Outlining” (2020).
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCanadian Legal Information Institute
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

The first edition of this casebook was published in July 2021. Updates were published in July 2022, February 2023, August 2023 and May 2024.

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