Definitions

Intentional tort

Intentional tort

An intentional tort is a category of torts that describes a civil wrong resulting from an intentional act on the part of the tortfeasor. The term negligence tort, on the other hand, pertains to a tort that simply results from the failure of the tortfeasor to take sufficient care in fulfilling a duty owed.

Not every intentional action qualifies as an intentional tort. Suppose an investor holding more than half of a corporation's stock votes on changes the other stockholders find detrimental. If the other stockholders suffer damages as a result, this is not a tort, as the powerful investor had a right to vote whichever way he liked. Thus, the other stockholders cannot sue the aforementioned investor for damages. If, on the other hand, John Doe physically attacks a passerby in the street, and as a result the passerby incurs medical bills, John is liable for these costs, as he is guilty of the tort of battery.

To find a defendant liable for an intentional tort, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant performed the action leading to the damages the plaintiff alleges, and that the defendant could have reasonably foreseen some harm to the plaintiff, although the full extent of the harm need not be foreseeable. Furthermore, the action must be a recognized "wrongful act." A famous case in the 1800s involved a hemophiliac child (Vosburg) who was kicked by another child (Putney) at school, resulting in severe disability of the leg. Although the kicker could not have reasonably foreseen that the kick would cause severe disability, he certainly could have foreseen that it would cause discomfort, and was found liable.

Common law intentional torts include:

The doctrine of transferred intent applies to intentional torts.

Property torts

Property torts are a specific class of intentional torts which arise when the right invaded is a property right rather than a personal right. These include trespass to land (entering someone's land without permission), trespass to chattels (handling items owned by another without permission), and conversion (taking possession of someone else's property with the intent not to return it). Some older, and largely obsolete, property law concepts include detinue, replevin, and trover.

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