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Intentional Torts

There is often a lot of confusion when it comes to “tort” law. What is a tort exactly? A tort is a wrongful act committed by someone that causes harm to another. In order to commit an intentional tort, the person committing the act must have a specific mental state, or the specific intent, to do something – an act – which might not necessarily be to cause harm to another. However, if harm is the byproduct on the act, then it is an intentional tort. The legal sphere of intentional torts includes many types of intentional wrongful acts that a victim can seek recovery for via a personal injury claim.

  • Battery. When a person commits a wrongful act of hitting or striking someone else, they have committed a battery. Battery encompasses many wrongful touchings of others ranging from inappropriate or unwanted sexual contact, to the act of physically striking another, to shooting someone with a gun.
  • Assault. When a person makes a threat of injury or harm against someone, it is a form of assault. Additionally, a person can commit an assault when they attempt to commit a battery, but do not succeed at completing the battery (i.e., fail to make physical contact with the victim).
  • Wrongful death. Some wrongful death cases are the result of the intentional actions of another that cause the death.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress. A person can intentionally inflict emotional distress on another by engaging in outrageous or extreme conduct with the aim or severely disturbing or frightening another, but this is a difficult intentional tort to prove. The specific circumstances must be just so in order to hold someone liable for this intentional tort.
  • False imprisonment and kidnapping. Individuals cannot be held by force against their will, and when they are held for no cause it is considered false imprisonment. Police and store owners may hold an individual that they believe may have committed a crime, but holding a person for too long without cause is false imprisonment. Holding a person for considerably too long changes the intentional tort from false imprisonment to kidnapping.
  • Trespass. A person commits a trespass when they intentionally enter someone else’s land or other property without permission. A person does not have to intend to commit the trespass, rather they merely have to intend to enter the land or other property.
  • Conversion. When a person purposely and without permission takes property belonging to another, they have committed conversion.
  • Fraud. Deliberately lying, misrepresenting facts, or misleading another for personal financial gain is considered fraud. Fraud can take many forms, including dealings in money, land, personal property, etc.
  • Invasion of a person’s privacy. In Texas, there are three forms of invasion of privacy:
    • Intrusion on seclusion. Intrusion on seclusion is the intentional intrusion of a person’s solitude, seclusion or private affairs. The intrusion must be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and the intrusion can be physical or nonphysical. An injury must result from the intrusion in order to be actionable as an invasion of privacy.
    • Public disclosure of private facts. The intentional publicization of private facts about a person’s life that are not on a matter of legitimate public concern, the disclosure of which would be highly offensive to a reasonable person that results in injury to the individual, may be a cause of action for public disclosure of private facts.
    • Appropriation of name or likeness. When someone intentionally appropriates the name or likeness of another, who can be identified from publication, for the purposes of extracting value from the name or likeness, and that results in an injury, this can be grounds for an appropriation of name or likeness invasion of privacy claim.
  • Defamation. Defamation is the intentional act of damaging someone’s reputation. Defamation takes two forms: written, which is referred to as libel; and verbal, which is referred to as slander.

Vicarious Liability for Intentional Torts

Sometimes a special relationship exists between two parties that can make one party liable for the intentional torts of another. These special relationships can include:

  • Employer-employee relationships, where the employer becomes liable for the intentional torts committed by the employee while the employee is under the authority of the employer.
  • Parent-child relationships, where the parents can be held liable for the intentional torts committed by their child.
  • Authority-subordinate or agent, where an subordinate or agent commits an intentional tort at the instruction of the authority.

Transferred Intent and Intentional Torts

If a person intentionally attempts to commits an act against a first victim, but fails to commit the act against the first victim, and instead, commits the act against a second victim, the act is still intentional, but the intent has transferred to the second victim. The second victim could have a cause of action against the person who committed the act.

Determining Who Is At Fault For An Injury

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