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Tort:Intentional and Negligent

Intentional and Negligent Torts

By definition Tort is a civil wrong that can be redressed through award of damages. Law has recognized torts as civil wrongs that become grounds for a lawsuit. These wrongs may result in harm or injury on whose basis the injured party can make a claim. Mainly the tort law aims to provide for the damages that occur due to a wrong and tries to deter other people from committing similar harms.

Some torts are also punishable with imprisonment. The injured party in such a case may sue either for monetary damages or for injunction for the discontinuation of the tortious conduct. (In the famous McDonalds Coffee Case, Stella Liebeck a 79 year old woman sued the company for the burns she received from very hot coffee served by McDonalds.  Jury awarded her $160,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages; settlement took place outside the court through a post-verdict settlement).

Types of damages that the injured party may recover generally include loss of earnings capacity, pain and suffering as well as reasonable medical expenses. Torts generally fall into three categories- intentional, negligent and strict liability.

Intentional torts:

The torts or wrongs which the tortfeasor knew would cause a harm or should have known would result from his actions or inaction.

Negligent torts:

The torts which result from unreasonably unsafe conduct by the tortfeasor.


Strict liability: Neither negligence nor intention are required to prove strict liability. Plaintiff needs to prove that there was a tort and the defendant was responsible.


When the tortfeasor commits the tort intentionally, it is known as intentional tort.

Intentional tort can be committed in any of the following three ways:

– It can be committed willfully or with an intention to harm someone.

– It can be committed knowingly while knowing that one’s actions may cause harm to somebody.

– By acting recklessly and without caring that one’s actions may harm somebody.

While trying to prove an intentional tort, the injured person just needs to prove that the tortfeasor meant to injure him, knew that it would happen or acted in a reckless way to cause him the injury.

Doctrine of Transferred Intent:

Proving an intentional tort is somewhat more difficult than proving negligence where the plaintiff just needs to prove that the tortfeasor  did not exercise reasonable care. Still, it is not always essential for the plaintiff to prove that the tortfeasor intended to injure specifically him. In several such cases he may just need to prove that the tortfeasor intended to harm someone or somebody. This is also known as the Doctrine of Transferred intent. For instance you were sitting in the bar with your friends. A person picked up a fight with your friend and while trying to hit him, hit you instead. You sue him for having committed the intentional tort of battery. Now he cannot escape claiming that he did not intend to harm you. He just punched intentionally and whatever damage it caused; he would be  held liable for it. Battery, assault, fraud, defamation, trespassing, invasion of privacy, etc are some common types of intentional torts.