LL452E      Half Unit
Tort Law: Foundations and Contemporary Issues

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Emmanuel Voyiakis (NAB.6.17)


This course is available on the Executive Master of Laws (ELLM). This course is not available as an outside option.

This course will be offered on the Executive LLM during the four-year degree period. The Department of Law will not offer all Executive LLM courses every year, although some of the more popular courses may be offered in each year, or more than once each year. Please note that whilst it is the Department of Law's intention to offer all Executive LLM courses, its ability to do so will depend on the availability of the staff member in question. For more information, please refer to the Department of Law website.

Course content

Tort law is not only one of the foundational topics in the common law, it is also one of the most intellectually stimulating and vibrant areas of legal practice. Tort principles are fundamental to many specialist areas of law (from competition to consumer, labour, and environmental law), so familiarity with their structure and content pays multiple dividends. While necessarily selective, our course will look at the core principles of tort law, their theoretical underpinnings, and their application in a number of controversial questions in modern litigation. We will discuss some central ideas in the law of negligence (acts vs omissions, duties of care, breach, causation and remoteness), as well as the major schools of thought on the purpose and function of tort law (especially wrong-based vs economic theories). We will also look at a wide range of questions in contemporary tort litigation: the complex position of public authorities in negligence; torts relating to autonomy and privacy (wrongful conception, autonomy-reducing medical negligence, invasions of privacy); vicarious liability and its applicability to the modern economy; and the various economic torts (inducing breach of contract; the ‘unlawful means’ tort; conspiracy). As befits all common law subjects, we will explore these themes by working through both hypothetical and real cases.


24-26 hours of contact time.

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 have the option of producing a formative essay or answer to a problem question (max. 2000 words) to be delivered one month from the end of the module’s teaching session by email.

Indicative reading

For some good sources of introductory reading on tort law (useful if you want to freshen up your knowledge, or for checking your level of familiarity, and all available electronically in our library), see:

  • Nick McBride & Roderick Bagshaw, Tort Law (6th ed., Pearson, 2018), Chapter 1.
  • Tony Weir, An Introduction to Tort Law (2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2015), Chapter 1
  • Jenny Steele, Tort Law: Text, Cases and Materials (4th ed., Oxford University Press, 2017), Part III (on negligence).
  • Peter Cane, Atiyah’s Accidents, Compensation, and the Law (4th ed., Cambridge University Press), Parts I & II.

Essential readings, especially in the second part of the course, will include excerpts from judicial decisions. They will also include excerpts from the following secondary sources:

  • Ernest Weinrib, The Idea of Private Law (Reprint: Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • Arthur Ripstein, Private Wrongs (Harvard University Press, 2016)
  • John Goldberg & Ben Zipursky, Recognizing Wrongs (Harvard University Press, 2020)
  • Guido Calabresi, The Costs of Accidents (Yale University Press, 1970)
  • Emmanuel Voyiakis, Private Law and the Value of Choice (Hart Publishing, 2017)
  • Saul Levmore & Martha Nussbaum, The Offensive Internet: Speech, Privacy, and Reputation (Harvard University Press, 2010)
  • Samuel Warren & Louis Brandeis, ‘The Right to Privacy’, 4 Harvard Law Review (1890) 193
  • Paula Giliker, Vicarious Liability in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • Ken Oliphant (ed.), The Liability of Public Authorities in Comparative Perspective (Intersentia, 2015)
  • Nicole Priaulx, The Harm Paradox: Tort Law and the Unwanted Child in an Era of Choice (Routledge, 2007)
  • John Murphy, The Province and Politics of the Economic Torts (Hart Publishing, 2022)
  • Hazel Carty, An Analysis of the Economic Torts (Oxford University Press, 2010)
  • Joanne Conaghan & Wade Mansell ‘Remedying Sexual Harassment and Abuse’ in The Wrongs of Tort (2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 1998).

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
Essay (100%, 8000 words).

Assessment path 2
Take-home assessment (100%).

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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