What Are Torts and Delicts?

Torts and delicts are legal terms used in various legal systems to describe a civil wrong that causes harm or injury to another individual. In a tort lawsuit, the injured party seeks compensation from those responsible for their wrongdoing.


Delict comes from the Latin delictum, meaning “to be at fault or offend.” In Scots law and other legal systems, delict is defined as an intentional or negligent act which creates a legal obligation between parties even though there has been no contract formed between them.

Defamation, breach of contract and product liability are all terms used to denote wrongdoing.

Under Roman Law of Delicts, there were various types of delicts. The first was intentional wrongful damage to property (damnum injuria datum), which dealt with loss or destruction to physical items like furniture and tools.

There were also delicts for trespass to chattels, which placed civil liability on those in authority or possession of goods or property (like those with custody over children, elderly people or animals). The third was assault and violence against one’s persona dignity or reputation such as aggravated assault and battery; finally the fourth was murder.

Differences Between Torts and Delicts

The primary distinction between torts and delicts is that crimes are punishable by the state; torts have specific consequences and allow a victim to pursue legal action against their perpetrator.

There are certain distinctions, such as the requirement that a claimant have suffered damages or losses and that the conduct must have caused some form of harm before the court can decide if the defendant should pay. In certain instances, however, damages may not relate to someone’s financial estate but instead include pain and suffering or other non-patrimonial losses.

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