a1 q.c. ll.d., Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Toronto.
Any attempt to evaluate the adequacy or inadequacy of tort law in general is bound to fail unless the scope of inquiry is severely limited. All attempts to find some unifying principle have failed. In light of the diverse interests involved which may be political, domestic or economic, and the purposes to be achieved, which may range from the quasi-criminal to determination of title to property, it would be a miracle of intellectual abstraction if it were otherwise.
To confine inquiry to “accidental” injuries, i.e., those arising as a by-product of some lawful activity carried on for reasons other than the invasion of a plaintiff's interest, is helpful but not satis-factory. For example, “accidental” injury to a person's privacy, honour or reputation could fall in this category. While issues of “strict liability” or liability for “fault” permeate this field and have, in England and Canada, been developed by the courts in favour of the former, public interest in freedom to disseminate news and the encouragement of freedom of speech is an important factor here which makes it impossible to compare other branches of the law where there is no counterpart. Here too legislation is playing an important role. By statute in England attempts have been made to mitigate some of the harsher features of strict liability by eliminating damages and substituting an “offer of amends” for accidental and non-negligent defamation. While legislation in Canada has been widespread, particularly with regard to the total or partial abolition of the distinction between libel and slander, such legislation has nowhere changed the strict liability of the common law.
* Paper prepared for 1960 Conference of British, Canadian and American Law Teachers.