A. Meaning of intent: There is no general meaning of “intent” when discussing intentional torts. For each individual intentional tort, you have to memorize a different definition of “intent.” All that the intentional torts have in common is that D must have intended to bring about some sort of physical or mental effect upon another person.
1. No intent to harm: The intentional torts generally are not defined in such a way as to require D to have intended to harm the plaintiff.
Example: D points a water gun at P, making it seem like a robbery, when in fact it is a practical joke. If D has intended to put P in fear of imminent harmful bodily contact, the “intent” for assault is present, even though D intended no “harm” to P.
2. Substantial certainty: If D knows with substantial certainty that a particular effect will occur as a result of her action, she is deemed to have intended that result.
Example: D pulls a chair out from under P as she is sitting down. If D knew with “substantial certainty” that P would hit the ground, D meets the intent requirement for battery, even if he did not desire that she do so. [Garratt v. Dailey]
a. High likelihood: But if it is merely “highly likely,” not “substantially certain,” that the bad consequences will occur, then the act is not an intentional tort. “Recklessness” by D is not enough.
b. Act distinguished from consequences: For “substantial certain” and “intentional,” distinguish betwwen D’s act, and the consequences of that act. The act must be intentional or substantially certain, but the consequences need not be.
Example: D intends to tap P lightly on the chin to annoy him. If P has a “glass jaw,” which is broken by the light blow, D has still “intended” to cause the contact, and the intentional tort of battery has taken place, even though the consequences – broken jaw – were not intended.
B. Transferred intent: Under the doctrine of “transferred intent,” if D held the necessary intent with respect to person A, he will be held to have committed an intentional tort against any other person who happens to be injured.
Example: D shoots at A, and accidentally hits B. D is liable to B for the intentional tort of battery.