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Intentional Tort

Intentional Tort

An intentional tort occurs when one person intentionally commits a civil wrong that unfairly causes another person to suffer a loss or harm.

Although they are commonly thought of together, assault and battery are distinct causes of action.

Intent

A person acts intentionally when they desire to cause the consequences of his or her act or reasonably know that the consequences will occur.

Assault

There are two elements to a cause of action for assault.

First, the defendant must act in a way that puts the victim an imminent apprehension of immediate harmful or offensive contact.

Second, the defendant must act intentionally.

The person targeted for the assault must know that the act is occurring for liability to exist. They must have a reasonable fear that they will be harmfully or offensively touched.

Imminent apprehension does not require that the act be immediately forthcoming, but rather that the contact will occur without significant delay.

Words alone are generally insufficient. Some action must cause the target’s apprehension.

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Battery

The tort of battery occurs when an individual acts with the intent to cause harm or offensive contact and those actions result in harmful or offensive contact to another.

Note that the defendant must intend to cause the plaintiff harm or offensive contact. Not all touching of another person is considered battery.

Contact is sufficient for a battery claim when a person’s reasonable sense of personal dignity is directly or indirectly offended by it.

Finally, a battery does not require contact to a person’s actual body. Offensive contact to those things attached to a person’s body, such as their clothing or jewelry, can also support a battery claim.

Damages

The jury generally determines damages for intentional torts. Damages may include medical costs, lost wages, or any other harms suffered because of the tort.

These damages are known as compensatory damages and are intended to compensate the victim for their economic losses due to the tort.

Non-economic damages may also be available in an assault or battery case. Non-economic damages may not have an obvious dollar amount attached to the pain someone suffers after an injury, but after hearing the evidence in a case, the jury can determine an award amount for non-economic damages. This could include compensating the plaintiff for their emotional distress, pain and suffering, or mental anguish related to an injury. A spouse can also recover damages for loss of consortium caused by the injury.

Punitive damages may also available in intentional tort cases. Punitive damages are intended to penalize the person responsible for their intentional actions, as well as to deter similar unlawful actions in the future.

Generally, damages depend on the extent of harm suffered by the victim. If the victim of an assault does not suffer significant physical or psychological damage that requires medical treatment, therapy or other damages that can be both proven and quantified, they may not recover much, even if they prove that they were assaulted.

Similarly, even though flicking someone’s ear is technically a form of battery, it is unlikely to result in a significant recovery.

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Kirk Morgan

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Billy Walker

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Will Walker

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Chuck Slaughter

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