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Intentional Torts

Not all civil claims are those that occurred due to accident or neglect; instead, many acts of harm are wanton, or intentional in nature. When a person intentionally causes you an injury, you have the right to file a civil claim against that person. The injury does not have to be physical in order for a civil action to be pursued. In an intentional tort case, you–the plaintiff–will have to prove that the defendant acted with intent to cause a particular result.

Types of Intentional Torts

When most people think of intentional torts, they think of assault and battery. While assault and battery are definitely two types of intentional torts, they are not the only ones. Other types of intentional torts include:

  • Conversion of property. Conversion of property is the intentional interference with another’s possession or ownership of property.
  • Defamation of character. An act of injury to your character due through a false statement of the defendant. Defamation of character is either in the form of libel or slander. Libel is a published false statement, and slander is a false, but public, spoken statement.
  • Fraud. Fraud is an act based on false statements that is engaged in in order to recover something of value.  For example, if you bought a product that was advertised as being made from a highly valuable material and paid a price based on that value, and later discovered that the product was actually made from a much less valuable material and the seller knew of the distinction, then you may have an intentional tort case against the seller.
  • False imprisonment. If you are unlawfully restrained or detained against your will, you may have a right to file a claim for intentional tort based on false imprisonment. There are certain criteria to a tort action for false imprisonment that must be satisfied, including: (1) that the detention occurred without your consent (2) the intent of the defendant was to detain you (3) there was no means for you to escape that you were aware of, (4) that the detention caused you harm, i.e. psychological harm, etc., and (5) that the detention was unlawful. You cannot file a false imprisonment claim against a police officer who arrests you if you are suspected of a crime, for example. However, you could file a false imprisonment claim if a person, for example, held you in a room without your consent, if you were detained by a person against your will for an unreasonable amount of time, or if a another person grabbed you and did not allow you to leave. Proving false imprisonment can be tricky – if you believe that you have a false imprisonment claim, you should consult with an attorney before filing your civil action.


  • Trespass and trespass to chattels. As a property owner in Phoenix, you have the right to exclusive use of your property. In the event that someone trespasses upon your property, you may be able to file a tort against him or her. However, you cannot simply file a claim against someone for accidentally entering your property; rather, the act must have been intentional in nature. You may also file a claim against someone who puts an object on your property against your will and refuses to remove that object.


Trespass to chattel is different that standard trespass. In the latter, as discussed above, an individual interferes with your exclusive rights to your property, or land. In the former, trespass to chattel, a person uses your property without authorization and harm is caused as a result. If no harm was sustained to the property or to you as a direct result, you cannot file a tort action.


  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, or IIED, is a type of tort action that is often up to the interpretation of the court. Essentially, a tort filed under a claim of IIED purports that the defendant engaged in outrageous conduct with the knowledge that the conduct would–and in fact, it did—cause you severe emotional distress or mental anguish. Threatening someone with an act of violence, for example, could be a display of intentional infliction of emotional distress.



  • Assault and battery. Finally, as mentioned above, assault and battery are the two most obvious types of intentional torts. The difference between the two is that assault refers to an act or a threat of action of  non-consensual touching, whereas battery is the non-consensual touching of another that results in harm or which is offensive. For example, if a person tried to hit you but missed, but you had fear of being hit, he or she has committed assault; if the person tried to hit you and succeeded, he or she has committed battery.


The statute of limitations for all intentional torts in the state of Arizona is the same as the statute of limitations for other personal injury claims; two years.

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