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Intentional Torts - Malice

Intentional torts are different from negligence claims, in that intentional torts are the infliction of injury or damage to property that was carried out with malice, willfulness or reckless disregard for the other person's rights.

 

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A tort is deemed intentional if the defendant intended for the physical consequences to happen or knew (or should have known) that the intended consequences were likely to happen because of their action or conduct.

Both negligent and intentional torts involve four areas, which must be proven to win a case:

1. Defendant had a duty to the plaintiff
2. There was a breach of that duty either by doing or failing to do something
3. The breach was the proximate cause to the plaintiff's injury (or property damage)
4. An injury occurred and the plaintiff must be compensated

For an intentional tort case to go forward, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. Such care may be a person being in the care of a doctor or a consumer of a product depending upon the manufacturer for a product that is safe. A breach of that duty in an intentional tort case would occur if the doctor were to knowingly and with malice prescribe the wrong medication or the product manufacturer knew of a harmful defect and failed to act to fix the product.

The breach as the proximate cause would be if the medication the doctor prescribed injured the patient or the defective product injured the person or a family member. The injury occurring would be that the patient who took the wrong medication suffered an identifiable injury with a monetary value that needed to be paid or an injury occurred because of the defective product and the injury had a monetary value for which the plaintiff needed to be compensated.

In cases of strict liability, which usually involve product liability claims, the plaintiff does not have to prove whether the tort was intentional or because of neglect, only that the defendant caused harm to the plaintiff.

Intentional Torts List


Some of the defenses used by defendants in intentional tort cases include consent, self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, repossession of property, public necessity, private necessity, assumption of risk, truth, comparative negligence or justification.

In sports, such as in a football game, where one player is hit maliciously by another player who is then injured, the injury may not be seen as intentional since both players consented to play the game and assumed a risk in playing a game known for its inherent violence (especially if a consent form was signed). Of course, if one football player threatens and then stabs another with a knife, this behavior is outside the rules of the game, (including consent and assumption of risk) and the perpetrating player most likely will be found guilty of assault and battery.

If a person uses reasonable force to defend themselves against another person, or defends their family or property (private necessity), this is also a defense against charges of intentional tort. A person may also use reasonable force to repossess their own property, which is rightfully theirs. If a person cuts down the neighbor's trees to prevent a wildfire spreading to the whole neighborhood, this is deemed a public necessity and not an intentional tort.

If one person is accused of defamation of character of another person, then truth is the best defense for this type of intentional tort case. If person A has malicious intent to harm person B, but person B is partly at fault for the injury through their own negligence, they may be found by the courts to be comparatively negligent and the damage award will be reduced by a percentage for which they are deemed to be responsible. If none of the other defenses seems to apply, then the defendant may try to justify their actions to the courts.

Intentional torts may be complex cases to prove and as such most cases are settled outside of court. Because of the egregious behavior of some defendants, however, some that do go to trial will end up with large verdicts for punitive damages on top of usually lesser compensatory damages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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