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
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: Suggested Citation