Home Definition Intentional Tort (Legal Definition: All You Need To Know)

Intentional Tort (Legal Definition: All You Need To Know)

What is intentional tort?

How do you legally define it?

What are the important elements that you must know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our legal dictionary!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

What is an intentional tort

An intentional tort is a type of injury or damage caused by one person intentionally or on purpose.

This is different from tort by negligence where a person causes damages due to carelessness.

The concept of an intentional tort is one where a person causes harm to another through a deliberate act regardless of whether he or she had the intention to cause harm.

Intentional tort definition 

What is the definition of intentional tort?

According to the Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, an intentional tort is defined as:

A type of tort that can only result from an intentional act of the defendant.

Types of intentional tort

What are the different types of intentional tort?

In summary, here are some examples of what can be considered as intentional torts against persons:

  • Assault 
  • Battery 
  • False imprisonment 
  • Conversion 
  • Intentional infliction of emotional stress
  • Fraud
  • Deceit 
  • Trespass to land and property 
  • Defamation 
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Catch-all intentional tort 

Let’s look at each of them


In a civil lawsuit, assault is an intentional action where a person causes another to fear an immediate or imminent harmful contact.

Assault happens before an offensive intentional contact.

In essence, assault is the “threat” to cause harm or threats to cause bodily injuries resulting in another person fearing their safety.


Battery is the actual harmful contact resulting from a person’s intentional desire to cause harm.

In other words, when you hit someone or touch someone offensively, you are committing battery.

For example:

Sexual battery is the act of offensively touching a person in a sexual manner causing the other person harm.

Assault and battery are linked in a way as “assault” happens right before “battery”.

In other words, a person threatening to cause an offensive contact has assaulted another, whereas a person who actually follows through with the offensive contact causes battery.

False imprisonment 

False imprisonment, including false arrest, is a type of intentional tort that can be caused by police officers but also any citizen who illegally detains someone or restricts another person’s freedom.

False imprisonment is the act of restricting, confining, limiting or preventing someone from exercising freedom of movement through force or threat.


Conversion is the civil act of depriving another of the use and control of their property (it’s the exercise of domination and control over someone’s property).

Typically, a conversation is a type of intentional tort that will lead to damages commensurate to the loss of enjoyment of the property control or use by the true owner.

Intentional infliction of emotional stress

An act or series of acts deliberately inflicting emotional stress to another is an act that can be qualified as an intentional wrong causing damages.

The court, jury or judge will consider the facts of the case and circumstances to evaluate the defendant’s actions and assess whether they were extreme or outrageous enough to have caused emotional harm to another person.


Fraud is a general term used to encompass different types of deliberate actions causing harm such as misrepresentation, scams or cons.

In essence, fraud is to lie to someone causing them harm or damages.

In some cases, civil fraud may also lead to criminal accusations.


Deceit is a type of fraudulent activity where the defendant causes harm through deliberate misrepresentations. 


Trespassing is an old legal theory that continues to be used today in some states.

Many states have abandoned the trespass theory for the benefit of the legal theory of conversion when someone intentionally deprives another of the full enjoyment of their property or exercises illegal control over it.

Trespassing is essentially the act of a defendant obstructing or preventing the plaintiff from exercising absolute ownership over his or her property.


Another example of an intentional tort is defamation.

Defamation is when a person knowingly makes a false statement of fact about another person rather than expressing an opinion.

This expression of “false” or “misrepresented” facts leads to damages to the plaintiff.

Invasion of privacy 

The notion of invasion of privacy may vary depending on your specific jurisdiction.

Essentially, it means that the defendant deliberately interfered with a person’s right to be left alone or stay in solitude or make private records public causing harm.


There is another concept called the “catch-all” intentional tort recognized in some jurisdictions where the courts can declare certain acts, conduct or behaviour as an intentional tort, although the actions do not fit into any of the intentional tort categories.

Intentional tort examples 

A good example to illustrate the concept of an intentional tort is when someone pushes another person or punches a person in the face.

In this example, the person pushing or punching performs an offensive act causing damages to the other person.

The threat of punching is considered an “assault” and the actual punch is considered “batter”.

Both assault and battery are common intentional torts.

Intent requirement 

What differentiates intentional tort from regular tort?

It’s the intention.

As the name suggests, an intentional tort is a type of tortious behaviour where the person causing harm did it on purpose.

The wrongdoer is known in law as the tortfeasor.

Let’s illustrate this using an example.

If a person drives a car and gets into a car accident, the damages caused to another person will generally be caused by the person’s negligence causing the accident. 

This type of conduct falls into the standard theory of tort where the tortfeasor did not intend to cause the harmful act but it happened by accident or negligence.

On the other hand, if a person was driving a car in such a way as to hit someone causing bodily injuries deliberately, that conduct will fall in the realm of intentional tort (more specifically “battery”).

Although the tortfeasor’s action was the same in both scenarios, the main difference was the wrongdoer’s intention or mindset.

In the first scenario, the person did not intend to cause injuries to another whereas, in the second scenario, the action was calculated and deliberate.

Intentional tort vs tort of negligence 

An act qualified as a tort is a wrongful act or conduct that causes harm, damages, prejudice or injuries to another.

There are different types of “tortious” acts such as intentional tort and the tort of negligence.

The difference between the two has to do with the mental state of the defendant or wrongdoer.

The person causing damages by negligence did not necessarily intend to perform the action that caused harm.

For example:

In many cases, a car accident is considered a tort of negligence as the driver did not intend to cause the damage acts.

On the other hand, intentional tort is a type of conduct that the wrongdoer intentionally wanted to do no matter whether the defendant was conscious of the possibility that it may cause harm to another.

For example:

A prank causing damages to another can be considered intentional tort as the defendant pulled a prank on purpose.

Intentional tort vs crimes 

If a person causes injury to another, can it be a crime?

What’s the difference between an intentional tort and a crime?

It is true that in many cases, an intentional tort can be considered as a crime.

For example, a person intentionally punching another person in the face can be accused of a crime.

The criminal charges will be laid by the state against the defendant and the victim is a witness testifying for the prosecutor.

The victime can turn around and sue the same defendant in a civil court for damages such as medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering and so on.

In the civil court, the plaintiff will pursue the legal theory of intentional tort, more specifically batter.


So how do you define intentional tort?

What are the different types of intentional torts?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Intentional Tort:

  • Intentional tort is a tortious act committed intentionally 
  • It is not relevant whether the person committing the act had an intention to cause harm, what’s important is that the harmful action was done on purpose 
  • There are different types of intentional torts: Assault, Battery, False imprisonment, Conversion, Intentional infliction of emotional stress, Fraud, Deceit, Trespass to land and property, Defamation, and Invasion of privacy

Related legal terms 

Civil lawsuit 
Tort law 
Tort definition 
International tort 
Wrongful act 
Wrongful death 
Trespass to land
Trespass to chattel 
Personal injury attorney 
General intent
Specific intent 
Unintentional tort 

Related legal questions

What is a tort 
What is tort law 
Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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