Trespass Libel Duty of Care and Nuisance Q4

In relation to the law of tort, explain the following terminologies;

(a) Trespass to land

(b) Libel

(c) Duty of care

(d) Nuisance

(20 marks, 2015 Q4)


(a) Trespass to land.

Trespass to land is a common law tort or crime that is committed when an individual or the object of an individual intentionally (or, in Australia, negligently) enters the land of another without a lawful excuse. Trespass to land is actionable per se. Thus, the party whose land is entered upon may sue even if no actual harm is done.[citation needed] In some jurisdictions, this rule may also apply to entry upon public land having restricted access. A court may order payment of damages or an injunction to remedy the tort.

By law, trespass for mesne profits is a suit against someone who has been ejected from property that did not belong to them. The suit is for recovery of damages the trespasser caused to the property and for any profits he or she may have made while in possession of that property.

For a trespass to be actionable, the tortfeasor must voluntarily go to a specific location, but need not be aware that he entered the property of a particular person.

If A forces B unwillingly onto C's land, C will not have action in trespass against B, because B's actions were involuntary. C may instead claim against A. Furthermore, if B is deceived by A as to the ownership or boundaries of C's land, A may be jointly liable with B for B's trespass.

In most jurisdictions, if a person were to accidentally enter onto private property, there would be no trespass, because the person did not intend any violation. However, in Australia, negligence may substitute the requirement for intent.[citation needed]

If a trespass is actionable and no action is taken within reasonable or prescribed time limits, the land owner may forever lose the right to seek a remedy, and may even forfeit certain property rights. See Adverse possession and Easement by prescription.

Trespass may also arise upon the easement of one person upon the land of another. For example, if A grants B a right to pass freely across A's land, then A would trespass upon B's easement by erecting a locked gate or otherwise blocking B's rightful access.

See earlier post on Trespass below:

FAQ for tort

Wikipedia search 'trespass to land', available at,

(b) Libel.

Definition from legal dictionary:

Libel is to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others.

Libel is the written or broadcast form of defamation, distinguished from slander which is oral defamation. It is a tort (civil wrong) making the person or entity (like a newspaper, magazine or political organization) open to a lawsuit for damages by the person who can prove the statement about him/her was a lie. Publication need only be to one person, but it must be a statement which claims to be fact, and is not clearly identified as an opinion. While it is sometimes said that the person making the libelous statement must have been intentional and malicious, actually it need only be obvious that the statement would do harm and is untrue.
Proof of malice, however, does allow a party defamed to sue for "general damages" for damage to reputation, while an inadvertent libel limits the damages to actual harm (such as loss of business) called "special damages." "Libel per se" involves statements so vicious that malice is assumed and does not require a proof of intent to get an award of general damages.
Libel against the reputation of a person who has died will allow surviving members of the family to bring an action for damages. Most states provide for a party defamed by a periodical to demand a published retraction. If the correction is made, then there is no right to file a lawsuit. Governmental bodies are supposedly immune for actions for libel on the basis that there could be no intent by a non-personal entity, and further, public records are exempt from claims of libel. However, there is at least one known case in which there was a financial settlement as well as a published correction when a state government newsletter incorrectly stated that a dentist had been disciplined for illegal conduct.
The rules covering libel against a "public figure" (particularly a political or governmental person) are special, based on U. S. Supreme Court decisions.The key is that to uphold the right to express opinions or fair comment on public figures, the libel must be malicious to constitute grounds for a lawsuit for damages. Minor errors in reporting are not libel, such as saying Mrs. Jones was 55 when she was only 48, or getting an address or title incorrect. (See:defamation, slander, libel per se, public figure).
Libel, from Legal Dictionary - The Free Dictionary, available at


(c) Duty of care.

Various posts earlier touched on 'Duty' which is a key element in liability claim for negligence.

Elements to prove negligence.
2011 Q8 Negligence Cases.
Donoghue v Stevenson 1932.

Below is brief introduction from Wikipedia on 'Duty of care':

In tort law, a duty of care is a legal obligation which is 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 that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence. The claimant must be able to show a duty of care imposed by law which the defendant has breached. In turn, breaching a duty may subject an individual to liability. The duty of care may be imposed by operation of law between individuals with no current direct relationship (familial or contractual or otherwise), but eventually become related in some manner, as defined by common law (meaning case 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 often develop through the jurisprudence of common law.
Wikipedia search 'Duty of care', available at

(d) Nuisance.

See earlier post on Private and Public Nuisance here.

Nuisance (from archaic nocence, through Fr. noisance, nuisance, from Lat. nocere, "to hurt") is a common law tort. It means that which causes offence, annoyance, trouble or injury. A nuisance can be either public (also "common") or private. A public nuisance was defined by English scholar Sir J. F. Stephen as,

"an act not warranted by law, or an omission to discharge a legal duty, which act or omission obstructs or causes inconvenience or damage to the public in the exercise of rights common to all Her Majesty's subjects".[1]

Private nuisance is the interference with the right of specific people. Nuisance is one of the oldest causes of action known to the common law, with cases framed in nuisance going back almost to the beginning of recorded case law. Nuisance signifies that the "right of quiet enjoyment" is being disrupted to such a degree that a tort is being committed.


Under the common law, persons in possession of real property (land owners, lease holders etc.) are entitled to thequiet enjoyment of their lands. However this doesn't include visitors or those who aren't considered to have an interest in the land. If a neighbour interferes with that quiet enjoyment, either by creating smells, sounds, pollution or any other hazard that extends past the boundaries of the property, the affected party may make a claim in nuisance.

Legally, the term nuisance is traditionally used in three ways:

  1. to describe an activity or condition that is harmful or annoying to others (e.g., indecent conduct, a rubbish heap or a smoking chimney)
  2. to describe the harm caused by the before-mentioned activity or condition (e.g., loud noises or objectionable odors)
  3. to describe a legal liability that arises from the combination of the two.[2] However, the "interference" was not the result of a neighbor stealing land or trespassing on the land. Instead, it arose from activities taking place on another person's land that affected the enjoyment of that land.[3]

The law of nuisance was created to stop such bothersome activities or conduct when they unreasonably interfered either with the rights of other private landowners (i.e., private nuisance) or with the rights of the general public (i.e.,public nuisance)

A public nuisance is an unreasonable interference with the public's right to property. It includes conduct that interferes with public health, safety, peace or convenience. The unreasonableness may be evidenced by statute, or by the nature of the act, including how long, and how bad, the effects of the activity may be.[4]

A private nuisance is simply a violation of one's use of quiet enjoyment of land. It doesn't include trespass.[5]

To be a nuisance, the level of interference must rise above the merely aesthetic. For example: if your neighbour paints their house purple, it may offend you; however, it doesn't rise to the level of nuisance. In most cases, normal uses of a property that can constitute quiet enjoyment cannot be restrained in nuisance either. For example, the sound of a crying baby may be annoying, but it is an expected part of quiet enjoyment of property and does not constitute a nuisance.

Any affected property owner has standing to sue for a private nuisance. If a nuisance is widespread enough, but yet has a public purpose, it is often treated at law as a public nuisance. Owners of interests in real property (whether owners, lessors, or holders of an easement or other interest) have standing only to bring private nuisance suits.

Wikipedia search 'Nuisance', available at