Difference between tort and breach of trust

Difference between Tort and Breach of Trust

Many definitions of “tort” are given by different authors and Acts. One among them is described under Section 2(m) of the Limitation Act of 1963. According to it, “Tort means a civil wrong which is not exclusively the breach of a contract or the breach of a trust”. This definition clarifies that a tort is different from a breach of trust and a breach of contract.

In this post, we have tried to discuss the difference between tort and breach of trust.

Meaning of the two (Tort and Breach of trust)

In general, the law of torts deals with a system that enables a person to claim damages in a civil suit if he has suffered harm or injury by the acts of another person. The term “tort” implies conduct that is not lawful and is “wrong”. It is a civil wrong against which a common law action can be brought and unliquidated damages may be claimed. Thus, a tort consists of some wrongful act done by a person that results in legal damage to another person. Examples can be trespassing on someone’s land, defamation, assault, and so on.

But it should be remembered that not every civil wrong is a tort. It should be distinguished from a breach of trust and a breach of contract (and also a quasi-contract).

Trusts are formed for a number of reasons. For example, if a person is not in the position of controlling his or her property, they may engage another person to take care of their property in good faith. Here, the trustee should not utilize the same for his personal use.

A breach of trust is when a trustee contravenes the terms of the trust or the duties of a trustee.

In simple terms, an act that breaks the trust between two parties is what is commonly referred to as a criminal breach of trust. When someone is given possession of or access to a property in any form, and that person uses, converts, or disposes of the property dishonestly or in contravention of a legal order or contract, that person is said to have committed a criminal breach of trust.

The following points also help to differentiate between a tort and a breach of trust.

Nature of Damages

Where there is a breach of trust by a trustee, the beneficiary may claim such compensation which is commensurate with or which depends upon the loss that the trust property has suffered. Therefore, the amount of damages that can be claimed is ascertainable. In other words, the damages in the case of a breach of trust are liquidated.

In addition, breach of trust is also a criminal offense that can be punishable with imprisonment, or fine or both.

Moreover, the damages in a breach of contract are also liquidated. It means that they are either predetermined in the contract itself or are capable of being ascertained by applying some prescribed method.

Whereas, the claim for damages under tort law is always for an unliquidated sum of money. Damages are the most important remedy under tort law and the term “unliquidated” means something which is not fixed or previously determined rather it is left to the discretion of the Courts.


One of the essential features of the law of torts is that it is not codified like statutory laws. In India, tort law is mostly based on English common law which is derived from judicial decisions. There is little legislation in the area of torts. This is so because liability in tort can arise from a number of cases and the number is so large that it is almost impossible to specify each and every act on the part of the defendant for which he may be made liable for damages.

Thus, the law of torts has its origin as part of common law.

Whereas a breach of trust could be redressed in the Court of Chancery (Court of Equity).

Parties in a tort and breach of trust

In tort law, the plaintiff and the defendant are generally not known to each other until the incidence of tortious liability. However, in the case of a breach of trust, the plaintiff and the defendant know each other from the very beginning. The relationship between trustee and beneficiary is formed at the time of forming the trust.

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