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Intentional Torts

It hardly needs to be stated that intent is a requirement of an intentional tort. Tortious intent requires a volitional act that is performed either, 1) for the purpose or, 2) with a substantial certainty, of the tortious consequence. As defined in the Restatement of Torts, Physical Harm § 1: "A person acts with the intent to produce a consequence if: (a) the person acts with the purpose of producing that consequence, or (b) the person acts knowing that the consequence is substantially certain to result."

In other words, intent can be described as having three elements.

  1. A state of mind
  2. About consequences of an act (or omission) and not about the act itself
  3. That extends not only to having in the mind a purpose (or desire) to bring about given consequences but also to having in mind a belief or knowledge that given consequences are substantially certain to result from the act. It is important to keep in mind that a knowledge or appreciation of the risk is not enough - there must be a substantial certainty in the result.

The law also recognizes what is called "transferred intent." Transferred intent is when the actor intends an action towards one person but accidentally affects another person. While technically the intent to injure the third party was not there, the law transfers the intent. Also, transferred intent applies where a person intended only an apprehension of contact, but accidentally causes actual contact. Intent can also be transferred between torts - so, a person could not claim they did not have the requisite intent for battery if what they really intended was assault.


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