Intentional Tort

A tort is a wrong committed by one party against the other party, for which the victim can claim compensation. Most torts are based on negligence, a form of carelessness. Some torts, however, are the consequence of intentional misconduct. An intentional tort might qualify as a crime as well as a tort.

Examples of Intentional Torts

Examples of Intentional Torts

Following are some brief explanations of the most common types of intentional torts.


Assault occurs when one party puts another party in reasonable fear of imminent physical harm. An example would be pointing a gun at someone’s head. It doesn’t matter if the gun was not loaded as long as the victim reasonably believed that it was. Cocking a fist at someone might also qualify as assault, depending on the circumstances.


In Georgia tort law, ‘battery’ means harmful or offensive contact with another person without their consent. It can include, for example, punching someone in the nose. It can also include sexual touching without consent due to its offensiveness, even if there is no injury.

Wrongful Death

‘Wrongful death’ means causing the death of someone through some form of misconduct. Although all wrongful death cases are torts, not all wrongful death torts are intentional torts. Negligence homicide, for example, is a tort of negligence, not an intentional tort.

False Imprisonment

False imprisonment means intentionally interfering with someone’s freedom of movement through force or threats. Locking someone in a room can be false imprisonment. Threatening to shoot someone if they leave the room can also constitute false imprisonment.

Trespass to Land

Trespassing occurs when someone enters another party’s land without their permission. Causing an object to enter someone else’s property can constitute trespassing. For example, using someone else’s property as a driving range to practice your golf swing can constitute trespassing to land, even if you never personally enter the property.

Trespass to Chattels

Trespass to chattels means interfering with someone’s right to use their personal property. Damaging their car, for example, can constitute trespass to chattels. The at-fault party bears liability for the damage done to the property or the deprivation of the owner’s right to exclusive use of their own property. Taking someone’s car out for a ‘joy ride’ without their permission can constitute trespass to chattels, for example, even if the at-fault party returns the car undamaged.


Conversion is interfering with another party’s property rights to such an extent that it justifies demanding that the wrongdoer pay the full value of the property. Totaling someone’s car is an example. Although theft or vandalism can both constitute conversion, conversion is not always a crime. Refusing to return borrowed property, for example, can constitute conversion.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

You can commit the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) without physically injuring them. ‘Stalking’ someone might constitute IIED, for example.

Available Damages in Intentional Tort Claims

Georgia recognizes several different forms of damages, including:

  • Property damage: Damaging someone’s home or car, for example.
  • Economic Damages: Easily countable damages such as medical expenses or lost earnings. Property damage can also fall under this category.
  • Non-Economic Damages: Intangible damages such as emotional distress, for example, or physical pain.
  • Punitive damages: An extra sum that courts occasionally award to the victim when the at-fault party’s behavior is outrageous, willful, or malicious. The main purpose is to punish the perpetrator to deter similar behavior in the future.

The amount of damages can vary widely from case to case.

Defenses to Intentional Torts

Following are examples of some common defenses against intentional tort claims:

  • Expiration of the statute of limitations deadline. In Georgia, you generally have only two years to file a lawsuit over an intentional tort claim (exceptions sometimes apply).
  • Consent: If you agree to a professional boxing match, for instance, you generally cannot sue your opponent for battery if they knock you out.
  • Self-defense or defense of others.
  • Privilege: A law enforcement officer or a shopkeeper, for example, might have the right to commit certain acts in the course of their duties that an ordinary citizen would not have the right to commit.

There are many more possible defenses available to intentional tort claims, depending on the circumstances.

Intentional Torts and Criminal Prosecutions

Many intentional torts also qualify as crimes. Wrongful death, for example, might qualify as murder or negligent homicide. In other cases, a wrongful death might not qualify as a crime at all, Likewise, conversion may or may not qualify as theft, depending on the circumstances.

A criminal prosecution and a civil lawsuit based on an intentional tort can occur simultaneously, based on exactly the same conduct. However, it is much harder to successfully prosecute someone for a crime than to win a lawsuit against them. That’s because the burden of proof for a crime is much higher than for a tort.

This can lead to a situation where a criminal court acquits the defendant, but a civil court finds the defendant liable for damages.

A Lawrenceville Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Seek Justice

Some intentional torts are so trivial that they aren’t even worth bothering with. Others are so serious that they absolutely demand a response. Most fall somewhere between these two extremes. Talk to an experienced Lawrenceville personal injury attorney to discuss how you should respond to a tort that someone commits against you.