A tort is the legal term for an act resulting in damage or harm to another person. If the person who commits a tort did so with the deliberate intent to cause damage or harm, then that person has committed an “intentional tort” and may face criminal prosecution and/or a civil action to recover damages that resulted from his or her actions.
There is one area in the law of tort in which what may appear to have been a harmless act, in and of itself, may become an intentional tort. The best example of this is a simple prank that is not a malicious act, but nonetheless caused an injury or damage to another person, even though it was not intended to do so. In these cases, the prank has become an intentional tort.
Intentional torts are usually classified by whether or not there was some physical injury to another, or if there was some non-physical action that 1) caused a physical injury or damage to property or 2) deprived another of their freedom of lawful movement without actual physical harm, or infringed upon another’s right to be secure in their person.
Examples of intentional torts that cause physical injury or damage to property include:
- battery, which can be simple battery, or aggravated battery if a weapon of some kind is used
- deliberate vandalism of property
- setting a hunting trap with the foreknowledge that a human could be injured
- recklessly discharging a firearm
Note that any of the above-listed intentional torts could also be prosecuted as criminal offenses, and that the criminal prosecution of an intentional tort does not preclude a civil lawsuit to recover damages from the same act.
Intentional torts that deprive a person of lawful freedom of movement, or of their right of personal security include:
- assault, which includes the uttering of threats, even if the treats were never fulfilled
- false or unlawful confinement or imprisonment
- slander, as defined to be the making or repeating of false statements that cause injury to another’s reputation
- libel, as defined to be the publishing in any physical or electronic medium of false statements that cause injury to another’s reputation
- invasion of privacy, which includes 1) invasion of solitude (the right to be left alone), 2) a public disclosure of facts that are understood to be private by nature of a privilege, such as doctor–patient or attorney–client, 3) appropriation, the unauthorized use of another’s name or picture, and 4) false light, the publication of material that is not true, but does not rise to the level of deliberate slander or libel.
- conversion, or the taking of another’s property and “converting” it to another use.
Although an intentional tort is usually thought of as a matter to be resolved in a court of civil law, practically all intentional torts are also criminal acts and can be prosecuted in a criminal court, as a top Memphis TN personal injury lawyer.
To illustrate this situation, the intentional torts of assault and battery are often taken together as the crime of the same name. After, or even before, the criminal case of an assault and battery is resolved, a lawsuit can be brought in civil court to recover damages that resulted from the crime.
Thanks to our friends and contributors for Wiseman Bray PLLC for their added insight intentional tort cases.