Understanding tort and quasi-contract:
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.
Likewise, when it comes to quasi-contracts, a similar kind of legal infringement is seen. If a person gains some advantage to which some other person was entitled to or if due to such advantage, the other person suffers an undue loss, then the law may compel the former to compensate the latter in respect of the benefit so gained. This holds valid even though there is no such contract between the said parties. To take an example, suppose a tradesman leaves certain goods at the defendant’s house by mistake. The defendant treats the goods as his own. Now, he is bound to pay the tradesman for them. This is the concept behind quasi-contracts.
As seen above, in both a tort and a quasi-contract, the duty is imposed by the law.
However, there are certain differences between the two.
Nature of Remedies
The major difference between tort and quasi-contract is regarding the nature of remedies available to the plaintiff. Under the law relating to quasi-contracts, the remedy is given only with respect to “money”, i.e., a right to damages and it is normally a liquidated sum of money.
On the other hand, the law of torts, apart from giving a right to damages, also grants other remedies. And the claim for damages under tort law is always for an unliquidated sum of money.
Duty with respect to whom
Another difference between tort and quasi-contract is that in the case of a quasi-contract, the duty is always towards a particular person. Whereas under the law of torts, the duty is towards persons generally (the duty of not doing a civil wrong). Because a tort is a violation of a right in rem, i.e., against the world at large. For example, A’s duty not to trespass is not towards X or Y or Z only. Rather whosoever’s property is trespassed by A will be entitled to bring an action against him, depending upon the circumstances of the case.
Waiving off the tort
In some cases, it is possible that when a tort has been committed, the injured party may choose not to bring an action for damages against the wrongdoer in tort law. Instead of that, he may sue the wrongdoer by virtue of a quasi-contract to recover the value of the benefit gained by the wrongdoer. Thus, the plaintiff may choose to sue under the law of quasi-contracts rather than in tort law. When he does so, he is said to have “waived the tort”.
Some torts which can be waived are those of conversion, trespassing on land or goods, deceit and use of action for extorting money by threats. But in some torts, the doctrine of waiver is usually not available and it can’t be applied. These include torts like defamation and assault.
Conclusion (Tort vs Quasi-contract)
From the above points, the difference between tort and quasi-contract is clear. While in tort law, damages are in the nature of “unliquidated damages”, the damages are generally fixed in the case of quasi-contracts. Moreover, in tort law, the duty is imposed towards all persons generally unlike quasi-contracts where the duty is imposed towards a definite person from whom some unfair advantage has been gained.
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