BY ANITA JOWITT
SCHOOL OF LAW
UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC
Title: Law of Torts in the South Pacific
Author: Offei, S.
Published by: The Institute of Justice and Applied Legal Studies, USP, Suva (1997)
This volume is the second to have been published in the `Laws of the South Pacific’ series by the Institute of Justice and Applied Legal Studies. The author’s aim is "to introduce the student to basic principles [of tort law]; and to explain and illustrate the application of these principles by reference to South Pacific cases and statutes." (Preface, p iii)
Improvements in the general layout of books in the Laws of the South Pacific series have occurred since the first was published in 1996 (Findlay, M. Criminal Laws of the South Pacific, IJALS, Suva, 1996). One of the most helpful additions is the inclusion of an index. A select bibliography, predominantly made up of general undergraduate torts textbooks, is also supplied. The provision of page references in the tables of cases and statutes referred to is another enhancement to the layout of these books.
The text deals with the introduced and adopted common law that is found in the South Pacific. The content and organisation of the book is therefore derivative of most other standard undergraduate torts textbooks. A South Pacific flavour is added to the discussion of general common law torts principles by inserting statutes and cases from the various countries of the USP region wherever relevant.
The amassing of this South Pacific material is this book’s greatest strength. It indicates clearly which local and adopted statutes apply to the law of torts throughout the region. This will be helpful to practitioners new to the region as well as students, as it is often hard to identify which statutes are in existence given the lack of consolidated legislation in many South Pacific countries. Similarly, much of the regional case law mentioned in the book is unreported, and there is often no other practical way of finding out about such decisions. In recognition of this fact detailed summaries and/or excerpts from many cases are provided, in the manner of a ‘cases and materials’ style of a textbook.
Unfortunately this book is marred by careless writing. Referencing is sometimes missing (for example see p 3, an example is stated to come from Winfield, but no footnote indicates where this was said), incomplete (for example see p 6 footnote 14), or awkward to follow. (For example, on p 265 the following reference is found in the body of the text "(Sturges v Bridgman (above))". To find the previous reference to Sturges v Bridgman one has to look back to p 259.) Instances of sexist language (for examples see p 4 & 5) and inaccurate or bad use of English (for representative examples see 2.5.5, p 26; 2.6.4, p 29; 17.3.2, p 265; 17.14.2 & 17.14.3, p 266) are also to be found in the text. Such errors are particularly disappointing to see as undergraduates often rely upon textbooks to provide them with an indication of how to reference and write correctly.
A large challenge that any textbook writer faces is to elucidate principles in a manner that students being introduced to new legal concepts will understand. The impression that I get from the book is that explanations of legal principles are sometimes simplified to the point of inaccuracy, or insufficient material is provided to students who may be interested in exploring topics further (for example see 17.14.2, p 266). Inaccuracies in describing the law in the South Pacific also occasionally occur. (For example see 21.21, p 331, which indicates that damages are usually decided by a jury or assessors, whereas damages are usually decided by a Judge sitting alone.) As with any textbook, this volume should therefore be read alongside another general torts textbook that expands upon concepts further, and primary source materials should be checked wherever possible. Used in such a way Dr Offei’s book provides a good beginning to understanding the law of torts in the South Pacific.
Lecturer in Law.