The eggshell rule is a well-established legal doctrine in common law, used in some tort law systems, with a similar doctrine applicable to criminal law. The rule states that, in a tort case, the unexpected frailty of the injured person is not a valid defense to the seriousness of any injury caused to them; this rule holds that a tortfeasor is liable for all consequences resulting from their tortious activities leading to an injury to another person if the victim suffers an unusually high level of damage. The eggshell skull rule takes into account the physical and economic attributes of the plaintiff which might make them more susceptible to injury, it may take into account the family and cultural environment. The term implies that if a person had a skull as delicate as that of the shell of an egg, a tortfeasor, unaware of the condition injured that person's head, causing the skull unexpectedly to break, the defendant would be held liable for all damages resulting from the wrongful contact if the tortfeasor did not intend to cause such a severe injury.
In criminal law, the general maxim is that the defendant must "take their victims as they find them", as echoed in the judgment of Lord Justice Lawton in R v. Blaue, in which the defendant was held responsible for killing his victim, despite his contention that her refusal of a blood transfusion constituted novus actus interveniens; the doctrine is applied in all areas of torts – intentional torts and strict liability cases – as well as in criminal law. There is no requirement of physical contact with the victim – if a trespasser's wrongful presence on the victim's property so terrifies the victim that he has a fatal heart attack, the trespasser will be liable for the damages stemming from his original tort; the foundation for this rule is based on policy grounds. The courts do not want the defendant or accused to rely on the victim's own vulnerability to avoid liability; the thin skull rule is not to be confused with the related crumbling skull rule in which the plaintiff suffers from a detrimental position pre-existent to the occurrence of the present tort.
In the "crumbling skull" rule, the prior condition is only to be considered with respect to distinguishing it from any new injury arising from the present tort – as a means of apportioning damages in such a way that the defendant would not be liable for placing the plaintiff in a better position than they were in prior to the present tort. In an example, a person who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta is more to be injured in a motor vehicle accident. If the person with OI is hit from behind in a motor vehicle collision and suffers medical damages, it would not be a prudent defense to state that the Osteogenesis Imperfecta was the cause of the fracture. In the English case of Smith v Leech Brain & Co, an employee in a factory was splashed with molten metal; the metal burned him on his lip. He died three years from cancer triggered by the injury; the judge held that as long as the initial injury was foreseeable, the defendant was liable for all the harm. In 1891, the Wisconsin Supreme Court came to a similar result in Putney.
In that case, a boy threw a small kick at another from across the aisle in the classroom. It turned out that the victim had an unknown microbial condition, irritated, resulted in him losing the use of his leg. No one could have predicted the level of injury; the court found that the kicking was unlawful because it violated the "order and decorum of the classroom", the perpetrator was therefore liable for the injury. In Benn v. Thomas, the appellate court determined that the eggshell rule should have been applied to a case in which a man had a heart attack and died after being bruised in the chest during a rear-end car accident. In the Australian case of Nader v Urban Transit Authority of NSW, the plaintiff was a 10 year old boy who struck his head on a bus stop pole while alighting from a moving bus, he developed a rare psychological condition known as Ganser Syndrome. The defendant argued. McHugh JA said, "The defendant must take the plaintiff with all his weaknesses and reactions as well as his capacities and attributes, physical and economic.
If the result of an accident is that a ten year old boy reacts to his parents’ concern over his injuries and develops an hysterical condition, no reason of justice, morality or entrenched principle appears to me to prevent his recovery of compensation." In the Australian case of Kavanagh v Akhtar, the court held the tortfeasor should take into account the plaintiff's family and cultural setting. Equality before the law puts a heavy onus on the person who would argue that the "unusual" reaction of an injured plaintiff should be disregarded because a minority religious or cultural situation may not have been foreseeable. Intervening cause is an exception to the eggshell skull rule. If an injury is not immediate, but a separate situation agitates the injury, the tortfeasor is not liable under common law in Australia. In Haber v Walker it was held that a plaintiff will not be liable for a novus actus interveniens if the chain of causation was broken by a voluntary, human act or, an independent event, which in conjunction with the wrongful act, was so unlikely as to
In tort law, detinue is an action to recover for the wrongful taking of personal property. It is initiated by an individual who claims to have a greater right to their immediate possession than the current possessor. For an action in detinue to succeed, a claimant must first prove that he had better right to possession of the chattel than the defendant and second that the defendant refused to return the chattel once demanded by the claimant. Detinue allows for a remedy of damages for the value of the chattel, but unlike most other interference torts, detinue allows for the recovery of the specific chattel being withheld. Detinue came in two forms: "detinue sur bailment" and "detinue sur trover". In detinue sur bailment, the defendant is in a bailment relationship with the claimant and either refuses to return the chattel or else has negligently or intentionally lost or destroyed it; the onus is on the bailee to prove that the loss of the chattel was not her fault. In detinue sur trover, the defendant can be any individual in possession of the chattel who refuses to return it to the claimant.
A defendant could be a finder or a thief or any innocent third party, the claimant need only have a better right to possession. Early writs and forms of action were exceptionally narrow in scope; this is reflective of the basic conservatism of the Common Law courts in the middle and late medieval period. This was in contrast with the Courts of Equity which were creative in producing novel writs for many new fact situations. Compensation in those days was not in money, rare, but in land, livestock, or furnishings, as these were the typical measures of wealth. What the plaintiff wanted back was the land, cattle or coins lent. Maitland suggests that in the earliest time the writ of debt seems to have been designed to recover identical coins; the early writ of detinue was designed for recovery of a chattel wrongfully detained, but not an action to recover loss due to a chattel being harmed while the defendant had it. Two facts marked the early common law actions, they were defective because of the wide field, excluded.
They were defective because the plaintiff might well think himself entitled to a remedy, but by reason of the procedure find that he went away empty. The defendant to a writ of debt or detinue might bring others with him who would swear that his denial of the claim was true; this was technically called his "wage of law" or "wager of law". It was enough to dispose of the plaintiff's claim. A common way to escape all writs the writ of right, as well as debt and detinue was to claim sickness. If the jury found him in bed with his boots off, the custom was to delay the writ for a year and a day. One of the oldest actions in the royal courts was replevin which had its roots in the law of customary courts. Speaking, replevin in its original form was a provisional remedy, its provision was to procure for the plaintiff the return of chattels taken out of his possession until the right to their possession could be decided by a court of law. No doubt, it was designed to avoid quarrels to cause a breach of the peace pending a settlement of the dispute about the right to possession.
In other words, the rule of law was beginning to replace that of local force of arms and personal conflict as the resolution of disputes over chattels. The action was in direct succession to the efforts made to regulate self-help, which were the origin of the law of tort; the form of legal recourse was in connection of distress. This was the practice of taking some chattel from the peasant or underling until some action was performed. In the medieval era the services for which distress could be levied were numerous, since the incidents of tenure were very numerous. Distress was leviable as damage feasant; when animals strayed and did damage to a neighbor, they could be retained until the damage was made good. Whether or not the distress was levied for rent or for livestock damage feasant, the owner of the animals could obtain their release by giving "gage and pledge" - a form of security that the damage would be made good. One peculiarity of distraint lay in the fact that the distrainor did not get any form of legal possession.
The goods and chattels were considered to be in the custody of the law. As a result, there was no taking of possession by the distrainor, unlawful, since no possession was technically inferred.. The action in replevin began to appear in the thirteenth century, it seems clear that the action of replevin lay where the question to be determined was that of wrongful distress. Excess and abuse of distress was punished; the mere claim by the distrainor that he had a right to the chattels distrained was a technicality that ended the action in replevin. It was necessary to re-file using a new writ invented in the early fourteenth century, called the writ de proprietate probanda - a writ "concerning the proof of ownership.". Since the distrainor did not get possession he was not liable in trespass, the spheres of the two forms of action remained distinct. During the fourteenth century, after some vacillation by judges, it was held that the plaintiff could elect which remedy he chose when the chattels had been distrained.
It was held that replevin could be used in place of the writ of trespass de bonis aspotatis. In reality, there is little evidence this substitution occurred with any frequency, if at all.. The rule involved interference with the possession of a chattel by the rightful owner; the 1856 case of Mennie v. Blake gives. There it was stated: "It seems clear that replevin
Defamation, vilification, or traducement is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of, depending on the law of the country, an individual, product, government, religion, or nation. Under common law, to constitute defamation, a claim must be false and must have been made to someone other than the person defamed; some common law jurisdictions distinguish between spoken defamation, called slander, defamation in other media such as printed words or images, called libel. False light laws protect against statements which are not technically false, but which are misleading. In some civil law jurisdictions, defamation is treated as a crime rather than a civil wrong; the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled in 2012 that the libel law of one country, the Philippines, was inconsistent with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as urging that "State parties should consider the decriminalization of libel". In Saudi Arabia, defamation of the state, or a past or present ruler, is punishable under terrorism legislation.
A person who defames another may be called a "defamer", "libeler", "slanderer", or a "famacide". The term libel is derived from the Latin libellus; as of 2017, at least 130 UNESCO Member States retained criminal defamation laws. In 2017, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media issued a report on criminal defamation and anti-blasphemy laws among its Member States, which found that defamation is criminalized in nearly three-quarters of the 57 OSCE participating States. Many of the laws pertaining to defamation include specific provisions for harsher punishment for speech or publications critical of heads of state, public officials, state bodies and the State itself; the OSCE report noted that blasphemy and religious insult laws exist in around one third of OSCE participating States. In Africa, at least four Member States decriminalized defamation between 2012 and 2017; the ruling by the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights in Lohé Issa Konaté v. the Republic of Burkina Faso set a precedent in the region against imprisonment as a legitimate penalty for defamation, characterizing it as a violation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the treaty of the Economic Community of West African States.
Countries in every region have moved to advance the criminalization of defamation by extending legislation to online content. Cybercrime and anti-terrorism laws passed throughout the world have led to bloggers appearing before courts, with some serving time in prison; the United Nations, OSCE, Organisation of American States and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Special Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression stated in a joint declaration in March 2017 that ‘general prohibitions on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous ideas, including "false news" or "non-objective information", are incompatible with international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression...and should be abolished.’ The common law origins of defamation lie in the torts of "slander" and "libel", each of which gives a common law right of action. Defamation is the general term used internationally, is used in this article where it is not necessary to distinguish between "slander" and "libel".
Libel and slander both require publication. The fundamental distinction between libel and slander lies in the form in which the defamatory matter is published. If the offending material is published in some fleeting form, as by spoken words or sounds, sign language, gestures or the like it is slander. Libel is defined as defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures; the law of libel originated in the 17th century in England. With the growth of publication came the growth of libel and development of the tort of libel. An early example of libel is the case of John Peter Zenger in 1735. Zenger was hired to publish New York Weekly Journal; when he printed another man's article that criticized William Cosby, British Royal Governor of Colonial New York, Zenger was accused of seditious libel. The verdict was returned as Not Guilty on the charge of seditious libel, because it was proven that all the statements Zenger had published about Cosby had been true, so there was not an issue of defamation.
Another example of libel is the case of New York Times Sullivan. The U. S. Supreme Court overruled a State court in Alabama that had found The New York Times guilty of libel for printing an advertisement that criticized Alabama officials for mistreating student civil rights activists. Though some of what The Times printed was false, the Court ruled in its favor, saying that libel of a public official requires proof of actual malice, defined as a "knowing or reckless disregard for the truth". There are several things. In the United States, a person must prove that 1) the statement was false, 2) caused harm, 3) was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement; these steps are for an ordinary citizen. For a celebrity or public official, a person must prove the first three steps, that the statement was made with the intent to do harm or with reckless disregard for the truth, specifically referred to as "actual malice". At one time, the honour of peers was protected
Duty of care
In tort law, a duty of care is a legal obligation, imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element; the claimant must be able to show a duty of care imposed by law. In turn, breaching a duty may subject an individual to liability; the duty of care may be imposed by operation of law between individuals who have no current direct relationship but become related in some manner, as defined by common law. Duty of care may be considered a formalisation of the social contract, the implicit responsibilities held by individuals towards others within society, it is not a requirement that a duty of care be defined by law, though it will develop through the jurisprudence of common law. At common law, duties were limited to those with whom one was in privity one way or another, as exemplified by cases like Winterbottom v. Wright. In the early 20th century, judges began to recognize that the cold realities of the Second Industrial Revolution implied that enforcing the privity requirement against hapless consumers had harsh results in many product liability cases.
The idea of a general duty of care that runs to all who could be foreseeably affected by one's conduct first appeared in the judgment of William Brett, Master of the Rolls, in Heaven v Pender. Although Brett's formulation was rejected by the rest of the court, similar formulations appeared in the landmark U. S. case of MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. and, in the UK, in Donoghue v Stevenson. Both MacPherson and Donoghue were product liability cases, both expressly acknowledged and cited Brett's analysis as their inspiration. Although the duty of care is easiest to understand in contexts like simple blunt trauma, it is important to understand that the duty can be still found in situations where plaintiffs and defendants may be separated by vast distances of space and time. For instance, an engineer or construction company involved in erecting a building may be reasonably responsible to tenants inhabiting the building many years in the future; this point is illustrated by the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Terlinde v. Neely 275 S.
C. 395, 271 S. E.2d 768 cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in Winnipeg Condominium Corporation No. 36 v. Bird Construction Co. 1 S. C. R. 85: The plaintiffs, being a member of the class for which the home was constructed, are entitled to a duty of care in construction commensurate with industry standards. In the light of the fact that the home was constructed as speculative, the home builder cannot reasonably argue he envisioned anything but a class of purchasers. By placing this product into the stream of commerce, the builder owes a duty of care to those who will use his product, so as to render him accountable for negligent workmanship. Although the idea of a general duty of care is now accepted, there are significant differences among the common law jurisdictions concerning the specific circumstances under which that duty of care exists. Courts cannot impose unlimited liability and hold everyone liable for everyone else's problems. There must be some reasonable limit to the duty of care; the question whether a duty of care exists depends firstly on whether there is an analogous case in which the Courts have held there to exist a duty of care.
Situations in which a duty of care have been held to exist include doctor and patient and consumer, surveyor and mortgagor. Accordingly, if there is an analogous case on duty of care, the court will apply that case to the facts of the new case without asking itself any normative question, it is only if there is no similar case that the court will go onto apply the normative criteria which Lord Bridge of Harwich sets out in Caparo Industries plc v Dickman, in which the House of Lords set out the following three-part test: Harm must be a "reasonably foreseeable" result of the defendant's conduct. The High Court of Australia has deviated from the British approach, which still recognises a proximity element. Rather, Australian law first determines whether the case at hand fits within an established category of case where a duty of care has been found. For example, occupiers of a premises automatically owe a duty of care to any person on their premises. If this is not the case the plaintiff must prove that it was reasonably foreseeable that harm could result from the defendant's actions.
If so, the Court applies a'salient features' test to determine whether the plaintiff is owed a duty of care. Some of the salient features which the Court considers in making this inquiry include: Whether imposition of a duty of care would lead to'indeterminate liability' – that is, it would interfere with the legitimate protection or pursuit of an individual's social or business interests. Whether imposition of a duty would constitute an unreasonable burden on individual autonomy
Restraint of trade
Restraints of trade is a common law doctrine relating to the enforceability of contractual restrictions on freedom to conduct business. It is a precursor of modern competition law. In an old leading case of Mitchel v Reynolds Lord Smith LC said, it is the privilege of a trader in a free country, in all matters not contrary to law, to regulate his own mode of carrying it on according to his own discretion and choice. If the law has regulated or restrained his mode of doing this, the law must be obeyed, but no power short of the general law ought to restrain his free discretion. A contractual undertaking not to trade is void and unenforceable against the promisor as contrary to the public policy of promoting trade, unless the restraint of trade is reasonable to protect the interest of the purchaser of a business. Restraints of trade can appear in post-termination restrictive covenants in employment contracts. Restraint of trade in England and the UK was and is defined as a legal contract between a buyer and a seller of a business, or between an employer and employee, that prevents the seller or employee from engaging in a similar business within a specified geographical area and within a specified period.
It intends to protect trade secrets or proprietary information but is enforceable only if it is reasonable with reference to the party against whom it is made and if it is not contrary to public policy. The restraint of trade doctrine is based on the two concepts of prohibiting agreements that run counter to public policy, unless the reasonableness of an agreement could be shown. A restraint of trade is some kind of agreed provision, designed to restrain another's trade. For example, in Nordenfelt v Maxim, Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Co a Swedish arms inventor promised on sale of his business to an American gun maker that he "would not make guns or ammunition anywhere in the world, would not compete with Maxim in any way." To be a valid restraint of trade in the first place, both parties must have provided valuable consideration for their agreement to be enforceable. In Dyer's Case a dyer had given a bond not to exercise his trade in the same town as the plaintiff for six months but the plaintiff had promised nothing in return.
On hearing the plaintiff's attempt to enforce this restraint, Hull J exclaimed, "per Dieu, if the plaintiff were here, he should go to prison till he had paid a fine to the King." The common law evolved with changing business conditions. So in the early 17th century case of Rogers v Parry it was held that a promise by a joiner not to trade from his house for 21 years was enforceable against him since the time and place was certain, it was held that a man cannot bind himself to not use his trade generally. This was followed in Broad v Jolyffe and Mitchel v Reynolds where Lord Macclesfield asked, "What does it signify to a tradesman in London what another does in Newcastle?" In times of such slow communications and commerce around the country it seemed axiomatic that a general restraint served no legitimate purpose for one's business and ought to be void. But in 1880 in Roussillon v Roussillon Lord Justice Fry stated that a restraint unlimited in space need not be void, since the real question was whether it went further than necessary for the promisee's protection.
So in the Nordenfelt case Lord Macnaghten ruled that while one could validly promise to "not make guns or ammunition anywhere in the world" it was an unreasonable restraint to "not compete with Maxim in any way." This approach in England was confirmed by the House of Lords in Mason v The Provident Supply and Clothing Co. In the US, the first significant discussion occurred in the Sixth Circuit's opinion by Chief Judge William Howard Taft in United States v. Addyston Pipe & Steel Co. Judge Taft explained the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 as a statutory codification of the English common-law doctrine of restraint of trade, as explicated in such cases as Mitchel v Reynolds; the court distinguished between naked restraints of trade and those ancillary to the legitimate main purpose of a lawful contract and reasonably necessary to effectuation of that purpose. An example of the latter would be a non-competition clause associated with the lease or sale of a bakeshop, as in the Mitchel case; such a contract should be tested by a "rule of reason," meaning that it should be deemed legitimate if "necessary and ancillary."
An example of the naked type of restraint would be the price-fixing and bid-allocation agreements involved in the Addyston case. Taft said that "we do not think there is any question of reasonableness open to the courts to such a contract." The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. During the following century, the Addyston Pipe opinion of Judge Taft has remained foundational in antitrust analysis; the 1911 decision of the Supreme Court in Standard Oil Company of New Jersey v. United States relied on Taft's rule-of-reason analysis. In that case, the Court concluded that a contract offended the Sherman Act only if the contract restrained trade "unduly"—that is, if the contract resulted in monopolistic consequences. A broader meaning, the Court suggested, would ban normal and usual contracts, would thus infringe liberty of contract; the Court therefore endorsed the rule of reason enunciated in Addyston Pipe, which in turn derived from Mitchel v Reynolds and the common law of restraints of trade.
In more recent cases, court continue to base their rulings on the Mitchel framework, but attention has turned to such issues as "necessary to do what?" and "how necessary compared to collateral damage?" For example if a restraint is necessary and ancillary, within the meaning of the Mitchel and Addyston Pipe cases, it may still be an unreasonable restraint of trade
Trover is a form of lawsuit in common-law countries for recovery of damages for wrongful taking of personal property. Trover belongs to a series of remedies for such wrongful taking, its distinctive feature being recovery only for the value of whatever was taken, not for the recovery of the property itself. Although actions in trover can be traced to the time of Bracton, Edward I of England, it became more defined during the reign of Henry VI of England, 1422–1461 and 1470–1471. Action in trover became a mature legal doctrine during the reign of Elizabeth I of England, 1558–1603. Early trover cases involved the taking of a bailment by the bailee. Others concerned the use of lost chattels found by another. Who was the real owner? Early on, there was difficulty in dealing with situations where chattels held by a bailee were used by a third party. Examples could be sheep, farm goods, grains or other chattels left in the care of a person, required to exercise ordinary care. If negligence led to damages, an action could be had.
A third person might use the chattel. The early common law had some difficulty in dealing with this kind of situation; this led to expansions of actions in trover. The theory of trover was that the defendant, by "converting" the chattel to his own use, had appropriated the plaintiff's property, for which he was required to make compensation; the plaintiff was not required to accept the chattel. He could recover damages for the full value of the chattel at the place of conversion; the effect was that the defendant was compelled to buy the chattel at a forced sale, carried out by means of an action in trover. Trover actions concerned the finding of lost property, it could involve cargo on ships, such as those lost at sea and found. Trover involved cases in which the only "most correct" owner could be determined. For instance, if an envelope of bank notes or currency were to be found, the court would attempt to identify the true owner, but this would prove to be impossible. In that case, the finder would be considered the rightful possessor.
Trover cases have been described as "finders losers weepers" cases. Trover damages came to be measured by the market value of the object, not its replacement cost if it were new. Sometimes, compensation for deprivation of use and compensation for other losses and proximately caused by the wrongful taking could be added. Case law results are mixed; the plaintiff could recover interest that would have been earned by the money value of the object and any expense incurred in attempting to recover the object. If the taker sold the object for more than its market value, the plaintiff could receive the higher price. However, selling the chattel could change the action to that of a true conversion, a form of theft. If the taker had made improvements on the object, the value of such improvements are not deducted from the plaintiff's recovery unless the taking was by mistake. Trespass and trover were both actions founded upon possession. For many centuries, they were alternative remedies for the wrongful taking of, or damage to chattels.
There was a distinction between the actions. In the theory of trespass, the plaintiff remained the owner of the chattel, with the possession or property rights interrupted or interfered with. In this case, the plaintiff must accept the chattel back. Recovery was limited to any damage from the interruption of property rights. In the time of Bracton, despite the generality of the writ, the bailor of a chattel could only bring this action against the bailee of the chattel, or those who represent the bailee by testate or intestate succession. Only two actions were available; the plaintiff could claim, "I lost the goods and you found them.". The first of these was called detinue sur trover. There is some evidence that the action had been used in the generation following Bracton during the reign of Edward I of England. In earlier times, the finder who did not take the witness of his neighbors that he had found the chattel was at risk of an actio furti. In those days, action in detinue sur trover could not lie against a third party.
If a person bailed his chattels to another, that bailee wrongfully gave, sold or bailed the chattels to a third party, the only action was against the original bailee. Liability to the third bailee was not transferable. In times, lawyers would talk of trover and bailment. In 1292, there was a slight tendency to regard the detainer rather than the bailment as the gist of the action, where it was stated "it is not enough to say,'you did not bail to me', but one must add,'and I do not detain it from you.'" But there are other cases which show that it is impossible or at least difficult for the bailor to fashion any count that will avail him against the third party. The third party was called the "third hand". Sir William Holdsworth described trover as an extension of detinue, which enabled not only a bailor and a dispossessed owner, but a third person, to whose use goods had been bailed, to get full recognition of their interests. In colonial America, replevin was used more than detinue. In England the scope of replevin was limited to action in distress.
By the end of the seventeenth century, the great bulk of litigation in England was conducted th
At common law, criminal conversation known as crim. con. is a tort arising from adultery, abolished in all jurisdictions. It is similar to breach of promise, a tort involving a broken engagement against the betrothed, alienation of affection, a tort action brought by a spouse against a third party, who interfered with the marriage relationship; these torts have been abolished in most jurisdictions. Criminal conversation was an action brought by a husband for compensation for the breach of fidelity with his wife. Only a husband could be the plaintiff, only the "other man" could be the defendant. Suits for criminal conversation reached their height in late 18th and early 19th-century England, where large sums between £10,000 and £20,000, could be demanded by the plaintiff, for debauching his wife; these suits were conducted at the Court of the King's Bench in Westminster Hall, were publicised by publishers such as Edmund Curll and in the newspapers of the day. Although neither the plaintiff, nor the wife accused of the adultery was permitted to take the stand, evidence of the adulterous behaviour was presented by servants or observers.
A number of sensational cases involving members of the aristocracy gained public notoriety in this period. In the 1769 case of Grosvenor v. Cumberland, Lord Grosvenor sued the King's brother, the Duke of Cumberland for criminal conversation with his wife, being awarded damages of £10,000. In the 1782 case of Worsley v. Bisset, Sir Richard Worsley won a technical victory against George Bisset, but was awarded the desultory sum of only one shilling damages: the fact of adultery was not contested, but it was found that he had colluded in his own dishonour by showing his friend his wife, Seymour Dorothy Fleming, naked in a bath-house. In 1796, the Earl of Westmeath was awarded £10,000 against his wife's lover, Augustus Cavendish-Bradshaw. In 1807 Lord Cloncurry brought a much publicized action for criminal conversation against his former friend Sir John Piers, was awarded damages of £20,000; the tort was abolished in England and Wales in 1857. In Ireland it survived until 1981. Prior to that date, a man could sue anyone who had intercourse with his wife, regardless of whether the wife consented – except if the couple was separated, the husband could only sue if the separation was caused by the person he was suing.
Criminal conversation still exists in parts of the United States. At least 29 states have abolished the tort by statute and another four have abolished it judicially; the tort of criminal conversation seeks damages for the act of sexual intercourse outside marriage, between the spouse and a third party. Each act of adultery can give rise to a separate claim for criminal conversation; the tort is still recognized in a number of states in the United States, although it has been abolished either legislatively or judicially in most. The tort has seen particular use in North Carolina. In the case of Cannon v. Miller, 71 N. C. App. 460, 322 S. E.2d 780, the North Carolina Court of Appeals, abolished the tort of criminal conversation, as well as the tort of alienation of affections, in the state. However, the North Carolina Supreme Court summarily vacated the Court of Appeals' decision shortly thereafter, saying in a brief opinion that the Court of Appeal had improperly sought to overrule earlier decisions of the Supreme Court.
Cannon v. Miller, 313 N. C. 324, 327 S. E.2d 888. In 2009, the General Assembly approved legislation; the bill was signed into law by Governor Bev Perdue on August 3, 2009, is codified under Chapter 52 of the North Carolina General Statutes: § 52-13. Procedures in causes of action for alienation of affection and criminal conversation. No act of the defendant shall give rise to a cause of action for alienation of affection or criminal conversation that occurs after the plaintiff and the plaintiff's spouse physically separate with the intent of either the plaintiff or plaintiff's spouse that the physical separation remain permanent. An action for alienation of affection or criminal conversation shall not be commenced more than three years from the last act of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action. A person may commence a cause of action for alienation of affection or criminal conversation against a natural person only; each of the three limitations arose from a recent North Carolina legal case involving the tort.
In Jones v. Skelley, 195 N. C. App. 500, 673 S. E.2d 385, the North Carolina Court of Appeals had held that the tort applies to separated spouses. In Misenheimer v. Burris, 360 N. C. 620, 637 S. E.2d 173, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that the statute of limitation commences when the affair should have been discovered rather than when it occurred. In Smith v. Lee, 2007 U. S. Dist. LEXIS 78987, the Federal District Court for the Western District of North Carolina noted that the question of whether an employer could be held liable for an affair conducted by an employee on a business trip was still unsettled in North Carolina. Atkinson, Diane; the Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton. London: Preface. ISBN 9781848093010. Holton, Karina. "Sir John Bennett Piers, the bold, bad baronet: criminal conversation in County Kildare". In Clare, Liam. Trouble with the Law: crimes and trials from Ireland's past. Dublin: Woodfield Press. Pp. 85–106. ISBN 9781905094028. Jones, David Lewis. "The transgression of Colonel Sackville Gwynne: a Carmarthenshire case of criminal conversation".