What Are Intentional Torts?

A tort is something someone does or does not do that causes you to suffer injuries. An intentional tort requires intent, whereas a tort does not. The most common intentional torts are false imprisonment, intentionally inflicting emotional distress, assault, battery, trespass to chattels, trespass to land and conversion.

False Imprisonment

If someone holds you against your will by force or threatens you with force in order to hold you against your will, or if the authorities hold you illegally, you are being falsely imprisoned. Locking someone in a room and refusing to let that person leave is an example of false imprisonment, as is someone threatening to shoot you with a firearm.

Intentionally Inflicting Emotional Distress

Sometimes, courts and others refer to this tort as “outrage.” If the defendant – the person who caused you harm – is outrageously crazy that it causes you harm, you could have a case against the defendant for intentionally inflicting emotional distress. However, the mental distress must be severe. For example, if someone tells you a loved one was killed, but the loved one is actually alive and well, this could be considered intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

Unlike other intentional torts, intent is not required to prove the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Assault and Battery

Many people believe assault and battery are the same thing. Legally, they have two different definitions. If someone assaults you, they create apprehension of harmful or offensive touching. These two crimes are often put together because both things happen. For example, if someone says, “I’m going to slap you,” that is an assault. The battery is the physical slap. Battery also includes actions like throwing things at you or spitting on you.


The law divides trespassing into two categories: Trespass to chattels and trespass to land. Chattels are items that are not permanent, such as a vehicle, a pet, clothing, or a computer. Trespass to land means real estate, including your home.

To succeed in claiming trespass to chattel, the defendant must “substantially interfere” with your chattel. Simply touching something you own or even using it substantially is not considered trespass. It is when the defendant damages the chattel that it is considered trespass.

Trespass to land is not as strict. Even if someone puts their foot on your property it is trespassing as long as the defendant knows he or she is not supposed to be on your property. The real property does not have to suffer damage for a trespass claim to be successful.


The tort of conversion is when the defendant interferes with chattel in such a manner that the interference causes you to sell the property to the defendant. For example, if the defendant damages your vehicle, then offers to buy it at a cut-rate price when you could have sold it before the damage for a fair market value, but not after the damage, that is conversion.

If you suffered from an intentional tort at the hands of someone, contact a personal injury attorney. The defendant could face criminal charges in addition to civil charges for his or her actions or inactions.