Intentional Tort

A tort is an act or omission that harms another person – and for which the law provides a civil remedy (typically, money damages). An intentional tort is one type of tort, although it is not the most common type.

“Intentional” vs. “Negligent”

“Intentional” vs. “Negligent” Most torts, such as causing a traffic accident through texting and driving, are based on negligence. The primary difference between an intentional tort and a negligent tort is that the perpetrator of an intentional tort acts on purpose, while negligence occurs when someone acts carelessly. To illustrate the difference, imagine the following scenarios:

  • Someone who was texting while driving accidentally rear-ends you while you are stopped at a traffic light. Contrast this with the situation where a “road rage” driver, angry that you were driving too slowly for their tastes, intentionally rear-ends you. That is the difference between negligence and an intentional tort.
  • Suppose the mail carrier slips on your porch because you allowed ice to accumulate. Contrast this with a slip and fall accident caused by a ‘booby trap’ that you created to deter trespassers.

It is important to remember that as long as you act intentionally, the results don’t have to be intentional. “Yes, I hit him on purpose, but I honestly didn’t intend to break his nose” is no defense.

Examples of Intentional Torts

Following are some of the most prominent examples of intentional torts.


Contrary to the understanding you might derive from the common usage of the word, striking someone is not assault. Assault is placing someone in fear of imminent physical harm. The fear must be reasonable under the circumstances. Pointing a gun at someone, even if not loaded, might qualify. Shooting at someone with a gun filled with blanks probably also qualifies.


Taking a swing at someone is probably assault. If you make physical contact with them, it’s battery. The victim doesn’t have to be physically hurt. Technically, hitting someone with a pillow constitutes battery. So does unwanted sexual contact. Of course, there is a consent defense. A professional boxer cannot sue their opponent for knocking them out, for example.

False Imprisonment

False imprisonment is deliberately confining someone to a bounded area without the legal authority to do so. You don’t have to be a police officer to commit this offense. Locking someone in their bedroom, for example, constitutes false imprisonment. So would locking someone inside of an automobile.


Conversion is the taking of personal property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it. It usually constitutes theft, but not all the time. Suppose, for example, that you borrowed an item with permission, but kept it because you falsely (but sincerely) believed that it was yours.

That wouldn’t constitute theft because you would lack criminal intent, but it would constitute conversion.

Trespass to Land

Someone trespasses on your land if they enter your land intentionally without your permission. Even if you entered with permission, it is usually trespass to remain once the owner or the owner’s representative orders you to leave. Imagine a restaurant manager asking you to leave the establishment after an altercation, for example.

Trespass to Chattel

A chattel is an item of personal property–an automobile, a laptop, a necklace, and more. It does not include intangible property such as a copyright. Trespass to chattel is interference with the owner’s right to exclusive use of the chattel. Taking your brother’s new Maserati out for a joyride without his permission constitutes trespass to chattel, for example, even if you return the vehicle undamaged.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The name of this tort is self-explanatory, even if some of the examples aren’t. Imagine someone calling a father, falsely identifying themselves as the county coroner, falsely telling them that their son has died in a car accident, and asking them to come to the morgue to identify the body. This would likely constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress

Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse, as opposed to nursing home neglect, can be an intentional tort. An example might be withholding showers from a resident as a form of punishment. It is possible to characterize certain actions, such as slapping a resident, as both battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A Kentucky Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Prove an Intentional Tort

How much is your tort claim worth? If it’s worth a significant amount, then it’s worth letting a lawyer handle it for you. Yet you might never even know the value of your claim until you first consult with a lawyer.

Don’t worry–most personal injury lawyers in Kentucky offer free initial consultations, and they have no financial incentive to exaggerate the value of your claim. Your legal fees will add up to a certain percentage of whatever amount you win–and if you don’t win compensation, you don’t pay attorney’s fees. Contact Minner Vines Moncus Injury Lawyers at (859) 550-2900 for a free consultation.