All members of society should be aware of civil responsibilities
Our society is a collection of individuals and the law is important to each member of this society because of its significant role in regulating, arranging and defining the relationship between these individuals. A simplified illustration of the types of responsibilities people have and their allocation will absolutely contribute to the knowledge of each member of our society of their legal duties and responsibilities both toward themselves and others.
In general, legal liability arises as a result of a person’s breach of a legal obligation imposed on them, and this responsibility is divided into three sections: Civil, criminal and administrative. Here, we will go through the branches of civil responsibility: Tortious liability, contractual responsibility, and the difference between them. I believe in the importance of knowing them in a detailed way will help the public understand the legal division and classification of such responsibilities, and their personal obligations and rights. It has been my observation that many individuals do not distinguish between the two responsibilities and the legal consequences of each.
Contractual liability arises from the non-performance of an obligation in a contract agreed upon by the parties. The tortious liability is based on a legal obligation arising from the text of the law, and it is the responsibility of the violator to compensate the victim for their violation without the need for a contractual relationship between them.
Both tortious and contractual liability have three pillars: Fault, damage, and causation. It is also clear that the basis of contractual liability is the contract, in which fault can be easily identified, either because an objective has not been achieved, such as a supplier of food, or a lack of obligation to care, such as a doctor’s responsibility. On the other hand, the basis of tortious liability is the violation of law, which must be proved, with the burden of proof on the victim. Of course, the judge has the right to assess the fault and its disappearance too. However, it is subject to the court deciding on its legal adaptation.
One of the striking differences between tortious and contractual liability is that the latter requires the performance capacity required by the law that governs the act, while cognition is enough in tortious liability. Any agreement to waive liability is null and void in tort liability due to its violation of the law, while in contractual liability it is acceptable and passable at the will of the parties to the contract.
If any liability arises, some may question the type or nature of the compensation due. In contractual liability, compensation is usually limited to pecuniary compensation, while this is not the case with tort liability, which is wider than contractual responsibility. In tort liability, the offender is obliged to compensate for direct damage, whether expected or unexpected, while compensation for contractual liability only covers the damage expected and stated in the contract.
One of the most important points that I wish to clarify is that tort liability is not limited to breaking the law through direct acts, but also includes something unknown to many — strict liability. Strict liability is “the imposition of liability on a party without finding negligence or tortious intent.” This type of liability applies in situations that are considered to be dangerous in their nature, especially in manufacturing and construction. The plaintiff only needs to prove that the damage has occurred and that the defendant is responsible for the source of the damage. This kind of liability encourages potential defendants to take all proper precautions.
In conclusion, social awareness of such responsibilities should be increased in order to achieve peace within the community and clarify the rights of each member of society.
Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif