Liability exposure, particularly personal liability exposure, and also (because of the rapid rise in the cost of insurance) county liability exposure, is one of the most important subjects for county executives and county commissioners to understand. Tort reform has been a popular topic in recent years, but non-tort liability can in many instances be more costly to counties. This Section will discuss both tort and non-tort liability, including certain immunity provisions of law. Liability associated with personnel, one of the fastest growing areas of the law, will be mentioned only briefly in this section.
What is a tort? A tort is a civil action based on a violation of a duty imposed by law. A tort can be the result of an intentional act or a negligent act. An action can be both a tort and a crime, for instance, an assault could result in both criminal liability and civil liability. The plaintiff who claims to have suffered a tort must show an act, intentional or negligent, which violates a duty imposed by law, generally the standard of care an ordinary person would exercise in the circumstances, and damages resulting from the breach of duty. The violation of duty can be through misfeasance (the improper doing of an act), or by nonfeasance (omitting to do an act).