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How many times have you heard a legal term that left you scratching your head in confusion? I’m sure that’s most of us. Without practicing law for a living, most of us are unfamiliar with legal jargon. Without the proper knowledge of law terms, we might be facing a potential legal issue daily and be completely unaware of it. 

For example, most of us may have faced a tort throughout our life and not realized. You might ask- What is a tort? What are some torts I might have faced without realizing it? Well, we are here to define it for you and provide you with examples.

Defining Tort

 

Merriam-Webster defines a tort as: A wrongful act other than a breach of contract for which relief may be obtained in the form of damages or an injunction. This is the definition of tort at its most basic. What is a tort?, as defined on lawyer Scott J. Senft’s website is: Torts are acts, or failures to act, that interfere with somebody’s freedom to enjoy their personal and property rights. It is a form of personal injury, spanning across many legal situations. 

Torts fall under three types: Intentional, negligence, and strict liability. Let’s take a brief look at each before diving into examples of each.

Intentional

An intentional tort case happens when an individual knowingly and intentionally engages in an action that causes damage or injury to someone else.

Negligence

This is the most common type of tort. Negligence cases are also intentional, but are caused because an individual acts carelessly. This results in an injured person or a worse outcome.

Strict Liability

Also known as an absolute liability. This is a case where responsibility may be placed on someone without fault or proof of negligence. 

Examples of Intentional Torts

Assault

Assault is an attempted battery- hitting or touching someone in an offensive manner- or threatening injury without battery taking place. 

Example- Someone pointing a gun at you, causing fear of immediate danger and death, could be claimed as assault. 

Battery

Battery is the legal term for physically assaulting someone, or touching them sexually. This covers a wide range of activities, including sending a projectile into someone’s body- as in firing a gun or other weapon that emits projectiles. Battery is also used for criminal charges of a similar act, which are often charged alongside assault.

Example- A bank robber shooting a security guard during a bank robbery. 

Conversion

When someone takes another person’s property and “converts” it to their own. In simpler terms- It’s theft.

Example- Using a stolen credit card to buy a new car.

Defamation

This is when someone knowingly spreads false information about someone else that causes harm. This includes both written and spoken words.

Example- Accusing somebody of rape when sex was consensual.

False imprisonment

The technical definition is “confinement without legal authority.” Except in the cases of police detaining a person who they reasonably suspect of a crime, or a shopkeeper keeping a suspected shoplifter for a reasonable time frame, nobody is allowed to restrict another person’s movement against his or her will.

Example- Police detaining someone who clearly doesn’t match the description of a suspect.

Fraud

Fraud is the legal term for providing false information to another person. In order for a successful suit against fraud, plaintiffs have to prove that the defendant knew that what he or she provided were false statements, causing the plaintiff to believe them and rely on that information, causing harm to the plaintiff relying on that information. Fraud can also be charged as a crime.

Example- The Billionaire Boys Club Ponzi scheme that happened in Los Angeles during the early 1980s.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

These are some of the hardest claims to prove in court. In order to prove a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiff must prove that someone engaged in extreme or outrageous conduct, with the intent of frightening another person, causing severe bodily harm or emotional distress.

Example- The defendant played a practical joke on the plaintiff, falsely telling the plaintiff that a loved one was injured in an accident and is in the hospital with a life-threatening injury. The plaintiff experiences severe emotional distress at the news, leading to the plaintiff having a nervous shock and becoming ill. The defendant is subject to liability to the plaintiff for causing her illness. 

Trespassing (Land & Property)

Trespassing comes in two forms: trespass to land and trespass to personal property. Both mean to use a property without the owner’s permission.

Example- Hoping a neighbor’s fence to use their pool while they’re away on vacation.

Examples of Negligence Torts

Criminal Negligence

When a person falls short of fulfilling an obligation or breaches their legal obligation, this is considered negligence. In some cases, this negligence can be considered criminal. The law on criminal negligence is different in each state, with some sending the person charged to jail.

Example- A nurse, doctor, or another hospital caregiver who isn’t paying attention and administers the wrong medication to the wrong patient, resulting in their death could be charged with criminal negligence. 

Civil Negligence

When someone is careless or negligent in a way that causes someone else to be harmed, the victim can sue. The term for this civil liability or civil negligence.

Example- A janitor who mops the floor and doesn’t put up the “Wet Floor” sign could be considered negligent. 

Examples of Strict Liability Torts

 

Product Liability

Example- The manufacturer releases a new swing set that they know has a faulty chain holding up the swings. You buy it for your child and they’re swinging on it when the chain snaps, causing them to fall hard and break their arm. You can hold the company liable for your child’s injury.

If a consumer is injured, becomes ill, or dies as a result of a defective product, this falls under strict liability. In these cases, the company is always held liable. 

Animal Liability

This falls under a wide category as they include domesticated and wild animals. The law acknowledges the difference between a domesticated animal and a wild animal. For this reason, there are different categories of animals who are subject to strict liability: Livestock, all dogs, dangerous animals, and wild animals. 

Livestock

Livestock refers to any animal that is kept as an asset, not as a pet. The owner of the livestock is liable for any damages or physical harm caused by the animal’s intrusion on another person’s property. 

Example- A passing car hits a herd of sheep that escaped through a broken fence and wandered onto the road.

Dogs in General

Dogs intersect the categories of livestock and dangerous animals. Though dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, they are still capable of causing serious damage or injury just as any other animal. If someone has a dog that is known to be a danger, it falls under the category of dangerous animals for strict liability purposes. Under the livestock category, a non-dangerous dog has caused some type of damage or injury that the owner might not be at fault for. Most states law only hold dog owners responsible if their dog bites someone. 

Example of a dangerous animal- A dog that is well-known for being dangerous is allowed unleashed onto a front porch and attacks a mother and child walking by the porch. 

Example for livestock animal- An excited dog and friendly dog jumps up to greet a visitor and startles them, causing them to step back quickly and fall.

Dangerous Animals

This category refers to any animal or pet that the owner knows is dangerous or has violent tendencies. If there are any damages or injuries caused by the animal, the owner can be strictly liable, even if their animal is not at fault. Any animal can fall under this category as animals and situations are case by case. 

Example- An anti-social parrot that has a history of attacking visitors with sharp and potentially deadly claws.

Wild Animals

In the eyes of a law, a wild animal is defined as an animal that isn’t commonly domesticated, despite how long it’s been in a captive environment. The person in possession of this wild animal is liable for any harm done to another person or their property, even if the owner has taken every measure to make sure the animal causes no harm. This list of animals includes, but isn’t limited to: Badgers, bears, coyotes, elephants, lions, monkeys, rattlesnakes, and tigers. 

Example- Your pet bear decides to go for a swim in the neighbor’s pool, damaging their landscaping and lawn furniture in the process.

The list of torts includes more situations not listed above as it is a very wide category. If you have been a victim of any of the above-mentioned torts, contact Scott J. Senft for legal advice today! He has experience with many of the torts mentioned above and many more!

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