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A tort is a breach of a duty imposed by law which results in injury to another. The law imposes a general duty on everyone to refrain from injuring others, and to refrain from violating the rights of others. When a breach of this duty causes injury, the party causing the injury is held responsible, and is required to compensate the injured party.
An intentional tort is a breach of the legal duty to refrain from committing intentional acts which cause injury to others. Most intentional torts involve injury to the physical person of another, injury to another’s reputation, injury to another’s property, or interference with business relationships.
Intent is the first essential element of any intentional tort. If there is no intent, there is no intentional tort. Intent, as used in tort law, does not require a hostile or evil motive. Rather, it means that (1) the actor desires to cause the consequences of his act, or that (2) he believes that the consequences are substantially certain to result from the act. Examples:
P, an arthritic woman, was about to sit down in a chair when the D, aged five years, nine months, suddenly and without warning, pulled the chair out from under her. P fell to the ground and was injured. P sued D for damages in battery. May she recover?
Yes. Even a joke may result in a battery if the essential elements are present. The pulling of the chair was intentional and done with substantial certainty that P would attempt to sit where the chair had been. The removal of the chair caused the physical contact between P’s body and the ground. The act was without P’s consent and against her will. These facts constitute a battery for which P may recover in tort.
P attended a buffet style luncheon with others. P was standing in line waiting to be served when D snatched the plate from P’s hand and shouted that P, a Negro, could not be served. P sued for battery. May he recover?
P filed suit alleging that D displayed a blackjack and stated that he would beat the P unless P left the premises. Has P stated a cause of action for assault?
No. The mere possession of blackjacks by D and others with him did not convert the unactionable words into a cause of action. To convert a threat into an assault, there must be some act to show that a battery will follow immediately. The complaint did not allege that the blackjacks were shown to P in a manner that would amount to an offer to commit a battery. Therefore, P’s complaint was dismissed.
P rented an apartment from D, but was behind in her rent payments. While P was having her furniture moved out of the apartment, D pointed a pistol at P and threatened to shoot her in order to prevent P from moving her furniture. P sued D for assault. D contended no assault was committed because of the lack of evidence that the pistol was loaded. Is this an assault?
An association of rubbish collectors threatened to beat P and burn his truck unless he paid money that he collected in a territory assigned to someone else. P became ill from fright. He sued for damages and to cancel promissory notes given in payment of the unlawful demand. May he recover?