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Unit of study_

LAWS1012: Torts

Semester 2, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

This is a general introductory unit of study concerned with liability for civil wrongs, with particular emphasis on torts protecting personal integrity, safety and freedom from personal injury. The unit seeks to examine and evaluate, through a critical and analytical study of primary and secondary materials, the function and scope of modern tort law and the rationale and utility of its governing principles. It also aims to build students' skills in problem solving and applying the law to hypothetical or real life situations. Particular topics on which the unit will focus include: (a) The role and impact of tort law in modern society, in comparison with other fields of law; (b) The role of fault as the principal basis of liability in the modern law; (c) Historical development of the action of trespass and the action on the case and the contemporary relevance of this development; (d) Trespass to the person (battery, assault, and false imprisonment); (e) The modern action on the case for intentional injury; (f) Defences to intentional torts; (g) Development and scope of the modern tort of negligence, including detailed consideration of the principles underpinning a duty of care in a range of common situations, the determination of breach of duty and the issues of causation and scope of liability or remoteness of damage, with particular reference to personal and psychiatric injury; (h) Compensation for personal injuries, including special and alternative compensation schemes; (i) Defences to negligence; (j) Vicarious liability for the torts of others and non-delegable duties; (k) Joint and several liability for personal injury and contribution between wrongdoers; (i) Injuries to relational interests, including compensation to relatives of victims of fatal accidents; survival of actions following death; and actions by employers for injury to employees.

Unit details and rules

Unit code LAWS1012
Academic unit Law
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Barbara McDonald,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Participation hurdle task Tutorial participation
Students will answer questions from the tutor about the tutorial problems
10% Ongoing one hour tutorial
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Problem-based assignment
30% Week 06
Due date: 17 Sep 2021 at 12:00

Closing date: 01 Oct 2021
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Assignment Short release final problem-based assignment
Short release problem based assignment.
60% Week 13
Due date: 12 Nov 2021 at 12:00

Closing date: 19 Nov 2021
3000 words / 7 days
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
hurdle task = hurdle task ?

Assessment summary

10% tutorial participation:

Participation marks will be assessed primarily, but not only, on a student’s participation when on call on two occasions. In the first tutorial students will be allocated to be on call in two tutorials during the course of the semester. The first tutorial will be in Weeks 3 to 5. The second tutorial problem will be in Weeks 7 to 12. (The tutorial problems will be in the Reading Guide and on Canvas.)

Students must be present and participate at their allocated tutorials in order for their tutorial participation to count. In the event that a student is unable to be on call at their allocated tutorial, or at an alternative tutorial arranged with their tutor, due to special consideration or for any other reason, the student will be required to make a personal presentation on one or two allocated tutorial problems to the unit of study convenor, by Zoom or in person on a date to be arranged. A student who is unable for any reason to complete this alternative assessment will receive nil for the 10% allocated to tutorial participation. The objective of the task is to evaluate oral communication skills (ULO4) and for this reason there is no written substitute available for this part of the course, which is aimed at assisting students to develop essential skills for their legal studies and the Law School’s graduate attributes. 

30% 1500 word interim problem-based assignment on topics in Weeks 1-5 only: The question will be released in Week 1 and is due at 12 noon on 17/09/2021. Maximum 1500 wordsNo extensions will be permitted after the closing date, and any students who successfully apply for special consideration after the closing will be required to complete an alternative assessment (which may be a different format to the orignal assignment). 

60% 3000 short release ( 7 days) final problem-based assignment, primarily on topics in Weeks 6-12: The question will be released on 5/11/2021 at 12 noon and will be due on 12/11/2021 at 12 noon. Maximum 3000 words. No extensions will be permitted after the closing date, and any students who successfully apply for special consideration after the closing will be required to complete an alternative short-release assignment. 

A student must attend no fewer than 8 tutorials and make a genuine attempt of both assignments for this unit of study in order to obtain a Pass grade (or above): failure to comply with this requirement will lead to an Absent Fail grade being recorded as the student’s result for this unit of study. ( Students are strongly advised to attend all tutorials.)

Detailed information for each assignment will be found on Canvas in the assignment instructions.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

  • Completely answers the question.
  • Contains striking originality of approach or analysis.
  • Demonstrates exhaustive or innovative research (where independent research required).
  • Exceptionally well written, structured and expressed.
  • Is otherwise exceptional in some way.


75 - 84

  • Completely answers the question.
  • Achieves a critical and evaluative approach to the issues.
  • Content and structure is well organised in support of the argument.
  • Demonstrates extensive research and analysis to support a well-documented argument.
  • Generally well expressed and free from errors.
  • Has a clear structure and is well articulated.


65 - 74

  • Covers main issues fairly well in answering the question.
  • Contains no significant errors.
  • Demonstrates an attempted critical approach to the issues.
  • Demonstrates reasonably sound research and analysis in addressing the key issues.
  • Has a clear structure and reasonably clear expression.


50 - 64

  • Identifies the key issues, but does not follow through with a reasoned argument.
  • Contains some significant errors.
  • Displays satisfactory engagement with the key issues.
  • Offers a descriptive summary of material relevant to the question.
  • Superficial use of material, and may display a tendency to paraphrase.
  • Demonstrates little evidence of in-depth research or analysis.
  • Adequate expression.
  • Overall, demonstrates the minimum level of competence in the assessment and satisfies the requirements to proceed to higher-level studies in the degree or subject area.


0 - 49

  • Does not answer the question.
  • Contains significant or numerous errors.
  • Few or no identifiable arguments.
  • Content that is inappropriate or irrelevant.
  • Lack of research or analysis.
  • Difficult or impossible to understand through poor grammar, expression or structure.
  • Overall, does not demonstrate the minimum level of competence in the assessment.


For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

The late submission of a piece of assessment, without an approved extension, will attract a penalty of 10% of the total marks available for the piece of assessment per calendar day or part thereof. For example, a submission at 2 pm or 11 pm on the date of submission will attract a 10% penalty. A submission after 12 midnight of the date of submission will attract a 20% penalty, and so on.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction: Scope and context of tort law - structure of the course; interests protected; strict and fault-based liability; role of common law and statute; comparisons with no-fault schemes. Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Introduction to tort law Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 02 Historical background of modern tort law: the development of the trespass actions and the action on the case. Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Answering problem questions in assignments and exams Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 03 Trespass to the person: battery and assault; false imprisonment. Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Historical background and intentional torts to the person. Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 04 The action on the case for wilful injury: the principle in Wilkinson v Downton. The statutory action for nervous shock. Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Intentional torts to the person, the action on the case for wilful injury, and claims for intentional inflicted nervous shock. Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 05 Damages for intentional torts to the person; Defences to intentional torts including consent to medical treatment. Lecture (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Damages and defences. Revision with past assignment question. Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 06 Negligence: introduction, duty of care. General principles in novel cases. Negligence: established categories of duties of care relating to personal injury. Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Week 07 Negligence: duties to control or protect third parties; duties to avoid psychiatric injury Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
The duty of care in negligence; general principles and established categories. Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 08 Negligence: breach of duty and the standard of care in negligence. Professional standards Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Negligently inflicted psychiatric injury. Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 09 Negligence: Damage Causation, scope of liability and remoteness of damage Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Breach of duty and standard of care Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 10 Defences to negligence. Compensation for personal injuries Lecture (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Causation, remoteness and scope of liability Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 11 Vicarious liability. Non-delegable duties. Multiple tortfeasors: plaintiff rights against concurrent, joint and/or several liability for personal injury; statutory contribution and indemnity rights between multiple concurrent tortfeasors in personal injury cases Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Vicarious liability and contribution rights; defences to negligence. Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 12 Compensation to third parties of the injured/deceased person and survival claims by the deceased person’s estate. Employer’s action for loss of services. Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Personal injury compensation; claims by third parties; general revision Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: All students are required to attend 70% of live classes (a minimum 8 tutorials) to satisfy the pass requirements for this unit of study. Attendance requirements may be satisfied by online attendance as specified by the Unit Coordinator. Failure to meet this requirement may result in a student being precluded from sitting the final assessment.
  • Word count penalty: A piece of assessment which exceeds the prescribed word limit will attract a penalty of 10% of the total marks available for the piece of assessment for every 100 words, or part thereof. The total word count for written assessments excludes: bibliography; footnote numbers; footnote citations; cover page. The word count includes: body text; headings and sub-headings; quotations; any text other than numbers and citations in footnotes. Students must provide a word count with their assessment. 
  • Referencing: The Sydney Law School expects students to use the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (4th edition, 2018) for footnoting, and a link to the library website where this is set out comprehensively is

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings


The prescribed casebook is B McDonald R Anderson and DK Rolph, Cases on Torts, 6th ed, Federation Press, 2017.

Supplementary required readings may be posted on Canvas or found in the Reading Guide.

All readings for this unit can be accessed through the Library Reading List, available on Canvas. Note: students are required to read only the casebook extracts of the starred cases. 


Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. acquire knowledge and understanding of the law of torts in its social context, including the theories and policies underpinning the operation of tort law
  • LO2. develop skills in identifying and understanding the development of the law of torts in its historical context, both by case analysis and statutory interpretation
  • LO3. develop problem-solving skills through the analysis of hypothetical situations to identify legal issues and to apply relevant law
  • LO4. develop oral communication skills
  • LO5. develop written communication skills, by learning to write in a well-structured, persuasive and logical manner, using plain, concise language

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Staff in this unit constantly review and reflect upon the content of this unit in light of student feedback.

In Semester 2, all lectures will be pre-recorded and available to students at least one week before the week shown on the lecture and tutorial schedule.  Students are expected to have listened to the relevant lecture and read the starred cases and statutes for the tutorial topic before they attend each tutorial. Tutorials will be conducted on this basis. 


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.