Not available in 2021/22
LL452E      Half Unit
Tort Law: Theoretical Foundations and Contemporary Issues

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible


This course is available on the Executive LLM. This course is not available as an outside option.

The course assumes prior familiarity with the basic principles of the common law of tort, and is open to ELLM students who have studied tort law at undergraduate level or above. 


The course assumes basic familiarity with the core principles of the common law of tort, so students will be expected to have taken a higher education course in tort law, or the law of obligations. 

Course content

This course looks at tort law from two angles: its theoretical foundations and its application in contemporary practice. The first part of the course examines the major schools of thought on the purpose and function of tort law (corrective justice/civil recourse/expressivist theories vs economic theories), the relationship between the ideas of responsibility and legal liability, and the relation between theory and the adjudication of tort cases. The second half of the course examines a range of questions at the forefront of contemporary tort litigation: torts relating to autonomy and privacy (harassment, breach of confidence, and misuse of private information), vicarious liability and its applicability to the gig economy, and the economic torts (inducing breach of contract, conspiracy, and unlawful interference with trade). 


30 hours of seminars in the MT.

Teaching will follow the standard ELLM format of ten three-hour seminars (including breaks). Students will be expected to have studied the reading in advance of the seminar, and to be ready to engage in a critical discussion of the topics and questions. Our last seminar will provide an overview of the course and focus on revision.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 essays in the MT.

As the course has a theoretical and a practical part, students will be expected to produce two 1,000 word formative essays during the course, one for each part, on topics to be set in due course. 

Indicative reading

Essential readings (extracts from):

Weinrib E., The Idea of Private Law (reprint, 2012)

Ripstein A., Private Wrongs (2016)

Goldberg J. – Zipursky B., Recognizing Wrongs (2020)

Calabresi G., The Costs of Accidents (1970)

Shavell S., Economic Analysis of Accident Law (1987)

Voyiakis E., Private Law and the Value of Choice (2017)

Oberdiek J. (ed.), Philosophical Foundations of the Law of Torts (2014)

Owen D (ed.), Philosophical Foundations of Tort Law (1995)

Levmore S. – Nussbaum M., The Offensive Internet: Speech, Privacy, and Reputation (2012)

Oliphant K. (ed.), The Liability of Public Authorities in Comparative Perspective (2016)


A full reading List will be distributed at the start of the course. Given its advanced nature, the course does not rely on a textbook. Good introductory reading on the theoretical part includes Oberdiek J. (ed.), Philosophical Foundations of the Law of Torts (2014); Owen D (ed.), Philosophical Foundations of Tort Law (1995); and Ripstein A., Private Wrongs (2016). On the more practical part of the course, good general reading includes Levmore S. – Nussbaum M., The Offensive Internet: Speech, Privacy, and Reputation (2012); Oliphant K. (ed.), The Liability of Public Authorities in Comparative Perspective (2016)


Assessment path 1
Take-home assessment (100%) in January.

Assessment path 2
Essay (100%, 8000 words) in the period between MT and LT.

There are two assessment paths for the course

Assessment path 1 - Take-home assessment (100%)

Assessment path 2 - Essay (100%, 8000 words)

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness