The primary purpose of tort law in the United States is to redress imbalances caused by the actions or inaction of parties that have aggrieved others and somehow caused harm. The aggrieved parties have the right to seek compensation for damages, according to Dictionary.com.
Tort law deals with civil wrongs, which are distinct from criminal acts and do not involve breach of contract. According to Wikipedia, the wrongs that can be litigated in tort cases involve actions or negligent inaction that result in physical harm, monetary loss, damage to a person's reputation and contamination of the environment. The actions described in the complaint may or may not also be criminal acts.
The purpose of bringing a tort case is to either recover a cash award that, in theory, fairly compensates the victim for damages suffered. Alternatively, the settlement of a tort case can compel a certain action on the part of the losing party, such as issuing a retraction in a defamation suit. Wikipedia notes that tort harms, unlike certain criminal acts, may be wholly unintentional, and that they therefore require a far lower standard of proof to be met in the event that the matter is brought before a court.