How To Spell Intent
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How To Spell Intent

How To Spell Intent

I wish when I had started 1L someone had grabbed a bullhorn and screamed “Intentional torts always have volitional acts done with requisite intents which cause something!”  This simple knowledge would have saved many of my essays and many tears over poor essay scores.

Intentional torts often seems very easy to tackle at first, when you are staring down the barrel of contract conditions, but at some point it morphs into this sinkhole of issues.  Many of us struggle with how to create our intentional tort outline, where to start, how to classify, and even where to begin.

The Road Less Traveled

Here is the big secret about Intentional Torts that I wish someone had given me at the beginning of 1L; “there are intentional torts to people and to property”.  That’s it; it’s that simple!  I know you think this is simple and everyone knows it, I can see you asking “Why is this such a big deal?”  Well let me tell you, this small but simple realization will help you score every possible point in an essay.  Remembering these two categories will help you immediately remember theories and will also help open your eyes during issue spotting.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am talking INTENTIONAL TORTS, not all torts. You will still be faced with Negligence, Product Liability, Economic Torts, etc. but as for Intentional Torts there are only torts against people and property!

Your volitional act is pretty simple; unless your party is having a seizure, they are generally acting volitionally.  Another example of action which is not voluntary is when the person is asleep or unconscious when the act was performed.


 intent applies only to assault, battery, false imprisonment, and tress to land or chattels.

From volitional act we move to requisite intent.  Intent, that key word in intentional tort, can be shown through desiring the act to cause the harm in the tort or through a substantial certainty that the result will happen.

This means that if a person acts with the intent to cause a certain tort but for some reason causes injury to a different person than the intended victim, this intent is transferred to the new victim.  Keep in mind, when working with transferred intent, it only applies to assault, battery, false imprisonment, and trespass to land/chattel.

Don’t Forget Your Cause

Then of course you have causation in every intentional tort.  The defendants act must cause the plaintiffs injury.  If its not the Defendants direct act then the defendant must set something in motion to cause the injury.  Think of this as the little kid that throws a rock.  The rock is not the kid but the rock causes the harm.  The kid put the rock in motion and it was the putting of the rock in motion that caused the harm.

On that note, never forget, mentally incompetent individuals and minors are responsible for their torts and are not precluded from forming the requisite intent to commit an intention tort!  NEVER FORGET THE KID THAT PULLED THE CHAIR OUT FROM THE OLD LADY!

In  your torts against people you have: Assault, Battery, False Imprisonment, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED).  In your torts against property you have: Trespass to Land, trespass to Chattels, and Conversion.

Now that we know our elements, lets look at our rule statements for intentional torts.

Assault – A volitional act done with requisite intent which causes reasonable apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact.

Battery – A volitional act done with requisite intent which causes a harmful or offensive contact.

False Imprisonment – A volitional act done with requisite intent which causes the plaintiff to be confined or restrained to a bounded area.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – A volitional act done with requisite intent which amounts to extreme and outrageous conduct that causes the plaintiff severe mental distress.

Trespass to Land – An intentional act done with requisite intent which causes a physical invasion of the plaintiffs land.

Trespass to Chattels – An intentional act done with requisite intent which causes an interference with plaintiffs chattel.

Conversion – An intentional act done with requite intent which causes the destruction of or serious and substantial interference with plaintiffs chattel.

This distinction will help you keep your analysis clear when writing essays and will also help you to spot issues buried deep in the fact pattern.  Read our article on Issue Spotting if you want to see more!




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