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.
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
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.