The Pride of the Common Law: Oklahoma's Struggle with the Prima Facie Tort Action

24 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2015 Last revised: 23 Jan 2016

See all articles by Matthew Kane

Matthew Kane

University of Oklahoma - College of Law

Ivan London

Bryan Cave LLP

Date Written: January 22, 2016


There would seem to be very little rationale to reject the “prima facie tort” in modern practice. It is wholly consistent with the broad principles of law applied everyday in courthouses across Oklahoma, the United States, and other common law systems. Indeed, it was originated as a theory to explain the commonalities shared by all intentional torts. And negligent torts follow a very similar pattern – there are not statutes or cases purporting to comprehend all negligent acts. Rather the trier of fact, in many circumstances, is responsible for weighing the conduct of the defendant and determining whether a duty exists, and, if so, whether that duty has been breached. Similarly, equitable relief is available to correct certain wrongs that cannot otherwise be addressed. There is no hard and fast rule that defines the outer boundaries of equity. The same principles are at work with prima facie tort. We as a society simply do not condone conduct which is intended to harm without good reason, and, at its core, that is exactly what our legal system was created to address. Oklahoma has historically recognized the existence of a tort for malicious wrong, although notably without using the term “prima facie tort.” If properly applied, the tort, regardless of the semantic designation, will continue to fill an important albeit limited role in modern jurisprudence.

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Kane, Matthew and London, Ivan, The Pride of the Common Law: Oklahoma's Struggle with the Prima Facie Tort Action (January 22, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Kane (Contact Author)

University of Oklahoma - College of Law ( email )

300 Timberdell Road
Norman, OK 73019
United States

Ivan London

Bryan Cave LLP ( email )

Denver, CO
United States

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