Chap12 - PART IV INTENTIONAL TORTS Chapter 12 Intentional...

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PART IV INTENTIONAL TORTS
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Chapter 12 Intentional Torts: The Prima Facie Case Introduction Intentional torts are among the oldest causes of action recognized in tort law. Although the negligence principle has come to dominate tort law, this is a relatively recent development, attributable in part to the importance of insurance as a compensation mechanism, 1 and in part to the utility of the negligence test as a means of balancing competing social interests. Relatively little of the personal injury practice of modern lawyers is taken up by intentional torts. However, for a variety of reasons they figure prominently in most law school torts courses. 2 Thus, most students' education would be incomplete without an understanding of intentional torts, despite the fact that they may never see one again, except (possibly) on a bar exam. The unique thing about intentional torts is the emphasis upon the defendant' s state of mind. Whereas in the negligence case the jury is instructed to judge the defendant's conduct by an objective standard, i.e. , the hypothetical reasonably prudent person, in intentional torts cases the jury must ordinarily find that the defendant subjectively intended to inflict a certain consequence upon the plaintiff. It must be borne in mind that the plaintiff can rarely provide tangible proof of the defendant' s state of mind other than by showing what the defendant did, and asking the jury to infer his intent. The defendant can usually claim that the injury to the plaintiff was accidental rather than intentional, and the plaintiff cannot offer an X-ray of the defendant' s brain as proof. Nonetheless, the jury must find as a fact (based upon their experience in the world and their common sense) that the defendant' s conduct was intentional (or in some cases highly reckless) rather than merely careless before the legal requirements of the intentional tort are met. Once the plaintiff has met his burden of proof, the defendant can always claim that his conduct was "privileged" or justified, and thereby escape liability. The "rules" governing intentional torts are relatively well settled; they are set forth in the RESTATEMENT (2D) OF TORTS. Their application, however, is often quite complex, as the succeeding cases demonstrate. R ESTATEMENT (2 D ) OF T ORTS § 8A. Intent The word "intent" is used throughout the RESTATEMENT of this Subject to denote that the actor desires to cause consequences of his act, or 1 Insurance is important in part because it usually provides coverage only for "accidental" harms. Intentional torts are frequently excluded from coverage because they do not meet the requirement that the loss arise from an "occurrence," which is typically defined as "an accident or a happening . .. which unexpectedly and unintentionally results in personal injury. ..." 2 One commonly cited reason is that the rules for intentional torts are relatively clear, and thus easier for the beginning student to understand and apply. Relative to product liability law, this statement is certainly true.
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This note was uploaded on 10/06/2010 for the course BUS 300 taught by Professor Mcclatchy during the Fall '08 term at Los Rios Colleges.

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Chap12 - PART IV INTENTIONAL TORTS Chapter 12 Intentional...

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