Tort is the term lawyers, judges and lawmakers use to describe an action that causes harm. Torts can result in injury, disability, death, financial loss, emotional suffering and loss of employment or reputation. What makes a tort intentional, and different from a personal injury or wrongful death due to, say, a car accident, is that the person or people who inflict the harm meant to do so. Companies can also commit intentional torts, though, as discussed below, special rules apply to employers in Ohio.
Types of Intentional Torts
Many intentional torts amount to crimes. Regardless of arrest, prosecution or conviction, the harm caused by a person or organization can create civil liability. In layman’s terms, this means filing a lawsuit to seek monetary compensation and/or punitive damages is usually possibly even if no one goes to jail.
When reviewing the descriptions of the broad categories of intentional torts below, keep in mind that tortious acts (i.e., harmful and legally actionable behaviors) can occur in combination. For instance, an invasion of privacy can result in defamation, and false imprisonment can occur with assault and battery.
- Assault and battery-The legal distinction between these actions is that battery involves physical hitting, shooting or otherwise making contact. Assault can involve making threats or verbally insulting someone. The two come together when a person threatens to beat someone up, then does so.
- Defamation-Slander is defined as telling lies about a person while knowing that you are not speaking the truth. Libel means knowingly publishing falsehoods, including on the internet and in emails. Succeeding in a defamation lawsuit requires proving both intent to harm and actual suffering, such as loss of employment or harassment from strangers, as a direct result of the libel or slander.
- False imprisonment-Both private individuals and law enforcement officials can be held liable for false imprisonment, which specifically means restricting a person’s ability to leave a definable space or to move about freely. Locking a person in a room against his or will constitutes false imprisonment, as does holding someone at gunpoint.
- Fraud-This usually involves lying in order to take a victim’s money or property. More broadly, fraud covers any misrepresentation made intentionally that causes a person who believes the false information to suffer a loss or injury.
- Infliction of emotional distress-Bullying, verbally abusing and terrorizing another person can lead to claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Succeeding in court requires showing that the person being sued meant to cause harm and honestly believed that his or her actions would hurt the victim.
- Invasion of privacy-Identity theft and impersonation for personal gain are the most actionable forms of invasion of privacy. Harder to prove are false light claims–lies that do not rise to the level of libel or slander–and invasion of solitude–your right to be left alone. With almost no exceptions, no right of privacy exists for things other people can see you do or hear you say in public.
- Theft-Defined in law books as conversion, theft includes taking anything of value from another person while knowing it does not belong to you, thereby “converting” someone else’s property into something you possess. An honest and acceptable defense against a claim of theft is that the item in dispute was given on loan or presented as a gift.”
- Trespassing-Both entering a person’s land, house, business or workplace without permission and using another person’s property (e.g., business equipment, car) without consent count as trespassing.
Special Considerations When Suing an Employer in Ohio
An Ohio law passed in 2005 and upheld by the state’s Supreme Court in 2010 makes succeeding with an intentional tort claim against a company you work for very difficult. Going into the details of the exceptions to Ohio Revised Code § 2745 would provide more details than you need. Suffice it to say that physical injury and wrongful death claims arising from on-the-job incidents are probably best pursued under workers’ compensation. Similarly, workplace discrimination, bullying or harassment that negatively affects your earnings, emotional state or ability to advance in your career should usually be handled as an employee rights case rather than an intentional tort.
Contact Our Intentional Tort Attorneys
Speaking with a plaintiff’s lawyer before filing an intentional tort claim is always a good idea. Different criminal and civil laws apply in various ways to each type of potential lawsuit, and more than one type of claim may be supportable based on the facts you can substantiate. Seeking a free consultation with a Intentional Tort Attorneys from Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman could help you identify the most effective ways to hold the person or institutional that hurt you accountable and to secure the compensation you deserve. Contact us today if you need a wrongful death attorney or an injury lawyer following an incident you suspect is an intentional tort.