An intentional tort is when someone purposefully commits a wrongful act against another person.
Below, we discuss what constitutes an intentional tort, common intentional torts, defenses, and the compensation you can seek in a personal injury claim.
What Are Intentional Torts?
An intentional tort is a wrongful act against another party that injures them, damages their property, or violates their privacy or dignity.
In general, torts fall into three categories:
- Intentional torts: This tort is a wrongful act done on purpose.
- Strict liability torts: This tort involves liability without fault, which does not consider the defendant’s mental state or negligence but gives the plaintiff the right to recover damages. This includes, for example, product liability and animal attacks.
- Negligent torts: This tort occurs when someone fails to take reasonable care and causes harm to another person. Most personal injury claims are based on the theory of negligence.
For an intentional tort to apply, the defendant doesn’t have to intend to cause an injury to the plaintiff. The defendant must intend the consequences of their wrongful actions, whether they intend to cause harm or should reasonably know they’ll cause harm.
For example, if the defendant innocently pushes the plaintiff and causes them to break their wrist, the defendant can be liable even though they didn’t intend to cause an injury. The intent here is that the defendant intended to push the plaintiff and followed through with that action.
What Are Common Intentional Torts?
Now that you have a better understanding of what an intentional tort is, here are some common types:
Assault is the act of intentionally causing someone to feel in immediate danger of physical harm or offensive contact. The plaintiff’s fear or apprehension must be reasonable, given the circumstances.
For example, pointing a gun and threatening to fire it at another person would likely constitute an assault. However, if you threatened to shoot someone but had no gun on the premises, there is no imminent threat.
Battery is when someone intentionally contacts someone in an offensive or harmful manner. It can be an act that touches the plaintiff or something connected to them, such as an article of clothing. This will be measured based on the reasonable person standard.
For example, if a gun is intentionally fired in the plaintiff’s direction and the bullet touches them or their clothing, it will amount to battery. Compared to a battery, no physical contact is necessary for an assault.
False imprisonment occurs when a victim is intentionally restrained or confined in a restricted area by someone else against their will.
There are two exceptions. Police can detain people if they have the legal authority to do so. Shopkeepers can detain people suspected of shoplifting if they have probable cause and act reasonably.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)
The intentional infliction of emotional distress is the act of intentionally engaging in extreme and outrageous conduct, causing severe psychological damage and distress to the plaintiff.
Fraud or Intentional Misrepresentation
Fraud constitutes intentional misrepresentation, knowing that the statements are false, resulting in another person acting on those false statements and consequently harming the plaintiff.
Defamation is when a defendant knowingly communicates false information regarding the plaintiff to a third party, whether verbally or in writing, which damages the plaintiff’s reputation.
Invasion of Privacy
Invasion of privacy is the act of intrusion into someone’s privacy without their consent. There are four types of invasion of privacy:
- Invasion of solitude or seclusion
- Disclosing private information
- Placing the plaintiff in a false light
- Appropriation of name and likeness
People have a right to be protected from unreasonable interference in their privacy, which includes their personality and reputation.
Trespass falls into three categories:
Trespass to chattels: The act of intentional interference into someone else’s lawful possession of personal property (either movable or immovable).
Conversion: This involves the act of intentionally interfering with someone’s personal property in a way that requires the defendant to pay the full value of the property. It could include theft, destruction, misuse, or the wrongful transfer of property.
Trespass to land: The act of physically invading someone’s real property or causing a third person to invade it.
Defenses to Intentional Torts
A person accused of intentional torts has certain defenses available when facing a civil action, including:
- Consent: A defendant can argue that the plaintiff consented to the act expressly or impliedly.
- Self-defense: Individuals may use self-defense to defend themselves against a reasonable threat to avoid immediate bodily harm to them or another person.
- Defense of property: A defendant can use reasonable force to prevent their property from getting damaged by another person.
- Necessity: The defendant can prove that they had no other reasonable choice and the act committed was necessary.
Other defenses may apply, depending on the intentional tort at issue.
What Is the Difference Between an Intentional Tort and Negligence?
As the name suggests, an intentional tort occurs when a defendant acts on purpose to harm another person. On the other hand, negligence is an unintentional failure to uphold a duty of care.
In an intentional tort claim, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s intent. In a negligence case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached their duty of care.
What Damages Are Available for An Intentional Tort in a Personal Injury Case?
If you’ve been a victim of an intentional tort, you can receive compensation for your:
- Economic damages like medical bills and lost wages
- Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and lost enjoyment of life
Punitive damages may be available in a personal injury case involving an intentional tort. These damages are awarded to plaintiffs to punish the defendant for willful, reckless, or malicious acts.
Contact a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyer If You’ve Been Injured By an Intentional Tort
If you have suffered an intentional tort, an experienced personal injury attorney in Pennsylvania can help. Contact a lawyer at Marzzacco Niven & Associates to discuss your legal options and determine the damages you may be entitled to receive.