The term “tort” refers to a violation in which one person causes damage, injury, or harm to another person. Such violation could occur due to intentional actions, a breach of duty as in negligence, or a violation of certain statutes. The person who commits the violation is referred to as the “tortfeasor,” and they incur what is known as tort liability. This means that the tortfeasor will need to reimburse the victim for the harm that they have caused them.
Additionally, under most tort laws, the injuries suffered by the plaintiff do not have to be physical in order for the tortfeasor to be found liable. Other types of harm could include emotional distress, or a violation of privacy law.
Tort law is a broad category of law that can include several different types of personal injury claims. The purpose of tort laws is twofold. The first purpose is to compensate the victim for any losses resulting from the tortfeasor’s violations. The second purpose is to deter or discourage the tortfeasor from repeating the violation in the future. Torts can be classified into three broad categories:
- Strict liability torts, such as those involving hazardous materials that are dangerous in and of themselves;
- Unintentional torts, such as negligence in a slip and fall case; and,
- Intentional torts, such as battery.
As torts are classified under civil law as opposed to criminal law, some torts may involve conduct that is not necessarily illegal. However, this conduct still may cause harm to another person. It is important to note that some tort cases do overlap with criminal law. For example, charges may be brought for criminal assault, while a civil lawsuit is also filed for the assault.
What Are Intentional Torts?
Intentional torts are violations resulting from the intentional misconduct on the part of the tortfeasor. These violations cause harm or injury to someone else and unlike other civil violations, such as negligence or strict liability offenses, which require that the tortfeasor intended to cause harm to the victim. This definition also includes the victim’s property.
However, although intentional torts claims are grounded in an intention to perform such an action, the tortfeasor may be held liable whether they intended any harm or not. An example of this would be surprising someone with an unstable physical condition. If that surprise results in them falling and incurring a serious injury, an intentional tort has been committed although no harm was intended.
Intentional torts can be further broken down into physical, emotional, and property:
- Intentional Physical Torts: This includes battery (making harmful or offensive contact with someone, without their consent) and covers different types of physical contact. Assault, which is an attempted battery occurring when the tortfeasor creates reasonable fear of harmful or offensive contact in the victim, is also an intentional tort. Additionally, false imprisonment, which refers to confining someone without the legal authority to do so, is another intentional tort. To expand upon false imprisonment, police are generally the only ones with the authority to detain people they reasonably suspect of crimes. The other exception is what’s known as the shopkeeper’s privilege, which allows shopkeepers to detain any person they suspect of shopkeeping, for a reasonable amount of time;
- Intentional Emotional Torts: This includes intentional infliction of emotional distress (engaging in extreme or outrageous conduct which causes severe emotional distress, or bodily harm); defamation (occurs when someone says something false about someone else, with that lie resulting in harm), in either libel or slander; and invasion of privacy. Laws regarding invasion of privacy differ from state to state, but in general, there are four major types:
- Invasion of solitude, or interfering with someone’s right to be left alone;
- Public disclosure of private facts;
- False light, or publishing facts about someone which are not true, but are not defamatory; and
- Appropriation, or the unauthorized use of someone else’s likeness for profit; and
- Intentional Property Torts: This includes conversion (taking someone else’s property and converting it to their own), the two forms of trespass (trespass to land and trespass to chattel or personal property), and fraud. Fraud is based on lying to someone, and the plaintiff must prove the following four elements:
- The speaker knew and understood that they were saying something false;
- The other individual believed the speaker;
- The other individual relied on that information; and
- The other individual was harmed by relying on this information.
Do I Need an Attorney to Assist With Intentional Tort Laws?
Intentional torts often involve several areas of law and a good understanding of the laws that vary from state to state. Therefore, it is in your best interests to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney if you find yourself in a torts suit.
If you are the tortfeasor, the attorney can help you understand any defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case, and represent you in court as needed. If you are the victim, the attorney may be able to help you be awarded damages. Damages awarded as a result of your injury could include monetary damages awarded for economic loss, emotional distress, and lost wages.