What is an Intentional Tort?

ISTOCK IMAGE ID 9610483A tort is an act which causes harm to another person. A tort is a legal term which covers a variety of actions, which are split up into subcategories. one of the ways they are split up has to do with the mental state of the person who committed the tort. When the person purposefully committed the wrongful act, then that is called an intentional tort.

A tort has to cause harm to another, whether it is physical injury, property damage, or damage to a reputation. The only thing that sets an intentional tort apart is the state of mind of the offender. If you are hit by a car, you receive injury, and the driver failed to meet their duty to drive safely. This constitutes a tort, however, since it was an accident, it would not be an intentional tort. If the driver purposefully hit you with their car, that would be an intentional tort. Common types of intentional torts include:

  • Battery. Battery is the legal term for hitting someone, and it covers a wide range of violent acts, including firing a gun at someone.
  • Assault. Assault is attempted battery or threatening injury.
  • False imprisonment. False imprisonment, or “confinement without legal authority,” is an intentional tort because no one is permitted to hold someone against their will.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress. To prove this tort, a plaintiff has to prove that another person engaged in extreme or outrageous conduct, with the intent of frightening someone else, and caused severe emotional distress or physical harm. Intentional infliction of emotional distress can be particularly hard to prove.
  • Fraud. In order to prove fraud, a plaintiff would have to show that the speaker intentionally said something false, knew that the other person would believe him and rely on that information, and that the other person would be harmed by relying on the false information.
  • Defamation. This occurs when someone says something false about another person, which causes harm. Defamation covers written and spoken words, libel and slander respectively.
  • Invasion of privacy. The nature of this tort varies, though there are generally four types of privacy invasion; invasion of solitude, public disclosure of private facts, false light in which someone publishes untrue facts about another person, and appropriation, meaning unauthorized use of someone’s likeness for profit.

Intentional torts are also crimes. The difference between a crime and an intentional tort is that a tort can result in a civil suit, which is a lawsuit brought my one private citizen against another. The loser of a civil suit may have to pay damages to the winning party. Crimes, however, are brought by the state against a party violating a criminal statute. Also, crimes have nothing to do with awarding damages.

Still, an act can be both a crime and an intentional tort. For instance, battery is considered a crime by both state and federal law, and a person accused of battery can stand trial and be incarcerated. At the same time, the battered party can file a civil suit against the offender and win monetary damages, regardless of the outcome of the criminal trial.


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