Intentional Harm to a Person or Property

Intentional Harm to a Person or Property

Personal injury may be caused by a person acting with the deliberate intent to injure or harm another person. This kind of conduct may be referred to as "purposeful," "malicious," or "knowing." A person who acts intentionally and causes harm as a result will be held liable for their actions. When someone intentionally harms another person or his or her property, an intentional tort is committed. Intentional torts can be classified into two groups: intentional torts against people and intentional torts against property.


Battery is the intentional, non-consensual, harmful or offensive touching of another person, either by or put in motion by the perpetrator. For example, someone commits a battery if he intentionally hits another person either with his fist or with thrown object, like a rock. For a battery to occur, the wrongdoer must make actual physical contact with the person (or with an object connected to the person, such as clothing, a purse or the chair in which the person is sitting). Battery does not only have to be contact that causes physical harm, but also contact that is offensive or insulting. For example, spitting in someones face is considered battery, as is any other contact brought about in a rude and offensive manner.


Personal injury law protects your right to control what does or does not touch your body. An assault is an act or threat to act; one that is intended to put a person in fear of imminent non-consensual physical contact. The tort of assault protects people from the fear that they will be physically harmed. Actual physical contact is not required, and in fact, if there is physical contact, the assault becomes a battery.

Note that this is different than what many people are familiar with in the context of criminal law, where assault and battery are terms that are defined by specific criminal legislation, which defines the criminal penalties imposed for engaging in certain acts, rather than the right to monetary recovery which is governed by personal injury law.

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Here is an example: If you intentionally throw a rock at someone, and the person sees the rock being hurled toward him and is in fear of being hit, you would be liable for assault. If the rock actually hits him, the assault becomes a battery. In this example, obviously the tort of battery has greater potential liability than the tort of assault. Note that if you did not see the person and threw the rock where he was standing, there would be no assault since there would be no intent to harm on your part. In that event, if the rock hits the person you could be liable for negligence, but not battery.

Conversion of Property

Conversion is an intentional interference with anothers possession or ownership of property that is significant enough such that the interfering party is required to pay for the propertys full value.

Here is an example: Ralph borrows Jeffs pressure washer but never returns it despite Ralphs requests. Jeff will be liable to pay damages to Ralph under the theory of conversion. Note that this is a civil remedy which differs from any penalty imposed upon Sam under the criminal law of theft.


Fraud occurs when someone intentionally makes false statements to coerce another person to engage in certain conduct or give up something of value. For example, if a store sold you what they claimed was a diamond ring, and you later find out it is worthless cubic zirconium, you would have a claim of fraud against the store. Misrepresentation occurs when one person makes a false statement (or gives a false impression) with the intent to deceive another person. The requirements to establish misrepresentation are similar to those required to establish fraud, and there are a number of elements that must be proven in order to recover damages in these types of cases.

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Defamation of Character

Defamation is the act of hurting a persons reputation by making a false statement. A defamatory statement can be made in one or two ways: by libel or by slander. Libel is a defamatory statement published in writing while slander is a verbal statement.

Elements: 1. Publication of a statement of fact; 2. Statement referring to an identifiable person; 3. Statement is defamatory; 4. Statement is false. The truth is a defense to defamation.

False Imprisonment False imprisonment is the unlawful detention or restraint of another persons freedom of movement, for any length of time, without justification or consent. There are four principle elements in a false imprisonment claim:
  • There must be an intent to confine the victim.
  • The victim must be aware of the confinement or be harmed in some manner by it.
  • The confinement must be without the victims consent. Confinement can occur in a number of ways, including using a physical barrier (locking someone in a room or tying him up) or by threats of force (threatening to kill or by holding someone at gunpoint).
  • The victim must not be aware of any reasonable means of escape.

Here is an example: If you intentionally trap someone in the basement of your home and lock all the doors, you have falsely imprisoned him or her. However, if there is a window that is within reach and wide enough for him or her to fit through, he or she is not falsely imprisoned because the window is a reasonable means of escape.

Trespass The law recognizes that owners of property have inherent rights, with the most important being the right to the "exclusive" use of their property. A defendant will be liable for trespass if he or she enters the plaintiffs property without consent of the plaintiff and interferes with the landowners exclusive right to use the land.

As generally used, "trespass" occurs when either: (1) a person intentionally enters anothers land, without permission; (2) a person remains on anothers land without the continued permission to be there, even if he or she entered rightfully at some point; or (3) a person puts an object on (or refuses to remove an object from) anothers land without permission. Note that the term "trespass" refers only to intentional interference with anothers interest in property. If one accidentally enters anothers land, this is generally not trespass especially in the case of children, who may not understand the exclusivity rights of property.

If a burglar intentionally enters someones home, they have committed trespass. On the other hand, if you have a heart attack while driving your car and end up driving across somebodys lawn causing damage to the property you are not liable for trespass.

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Trespass to Chattels "Chattel" refers to items of personal property such as a car, pet or jewelry. Someone commits trespass to chattel if he or she intentionally possesses someone elses property without their consent even if only for a brief period of time. If they inflict some sort of damage on your property while it was in their possession, they are held liable, even if the damage was unintentional.

Here is an example: If you take your friends new car for a joy ride without his authorization and during the course of your ride you dent the back fender, you have committed a trespass to chattel.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is committed when one engages in extreme and outrageous conduct that is intended to cause, and does in fact cause, severe mental anguish and distress in a victim. What constitutes "outrageous" conduct is determined by deciding whether a reasonable person of "ordinary sensibilities" would feel extreme distress under the circumstances. If the perpetrator knows, however, that the victim is a highly sensitive person, the standard for determining the outrageous behavior is lowered. In order to recover damages in this type of case, the plaintiff must show physical manifestations of distress or some other non-psychological damage (such as loss of wages).

Here is an example: A man threatens that if you, a taxi driver, do not pay over part of your wages to him and his henchmen, he will severely beat you. Since the mans conduct is extreme and outrageous, and since he has intended to cause you distress (which he has succeeded in doing), he is liable for infliction of mental distress. Three possible types of intentions that are actionable:
  • the wrongdoer desires to cause you emotional distress
  • the wrongdoer knows with substantial certainty that you will suffer emotional distress;
  • the wrongdoer recklessly disregards the high probability that emotional distress will occur.