Intentional Torts

While most personal injury claims are based on allegations of negligence, intentional tort claims arise from an allegation that the at-fault party acted intentionally, instead of neglectfully. Many intentional torts are also criminal offenses. While the state may bring a case against the party in a criminal court, you may also have the option to bring a case against the party in civil court for monetary damages. It is important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina before trying to bring a tort claim yourself.

Assault And Battery

North Carolina defines an assault as an attempt to commit a battery, or a show of force indicating that a battery is imminent. Mere words are generally not sufficient. The offense generally requires some action along with the words to show that a battery is imminent.

The elements of assault include:

  • An act by the defendant creating a reasonable apprehension of immediate harm;
  • Intent on the part of the defendant to bring about in the plaintiff apprehension of immediate harm; and
  • The act caused the plaintiff’s apprehension.

Battery is defined as harmful or offensive contact with another party, without permission. It requires an actual touching, even if the victim is unaware that the touching occurred.

There are three elements to the crime of battery.

  • An act by the defendant which brings about harmful or offensive contact to the plaintiff’s body;
  • Intent on the part of the defendant to bring about harmful or offensive contact to the plaintiff’s body; and
  • The act caused injury to the plaintiff.

Often time, assault and battery are combined into a single intentional tort.

False Imprisonment

False imprisonment is commonly viewed as a lesser included offense of kidnapping under North Carolina law. The elements are as follows:

  • Intentionally and unlawfully;
  • restraining or detaining an individual;
  • without the individual’s consent.

A successful claim involving the intentional tort of false imprisonment against you requires proof that the detainment was unlawful. If it was done for a lawful purpose or under lawful circumstances, the case is likely to fail. When determining damages for false imprisonment, the court generally considers physical and emotional suffering, along with loss of time and damage to reputation.

Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress

The intentional tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress requires the occurrence of some substantial action. The act must prove so horrible that it causes the victim to experience a severe emotional trauma. The elements of the tort are as follows:

  • Extreme and/or outrageous conduct; that
  • Recklessly and intentionally causes;
  • Severe emotional distress for an individual.

The first hurdle in proving this type of claim is proving that the causal act was outrageous. Reaching this threshold generally requires more than an act that is insulting or obnoxious. Ultimately, it is up to the finder of fact to determine whether the act rises to the necessary level of extreme and outrageous.

The next task is proving that the behavior was done with the intention of causing emotional distress or recklessly with the knowledge that emotional distress will likely result.

Lastly, you must show that the level of emotional distress was “severe”. While there is no black and white definition of severe emotional distress, there are indications that can help prove this element. A long duration of distress is more likely to meet the threshold, as is intense distress that may manifest itself as anxiety or paranoia.

Malicious Prosecution

Malicious prosecution is wrongfully instituting a criminal proceeding against an individual. The elements of the tort include:

  • Intentionally causing a criminal action;
  • Without probable cause;
  • With some intent other than obtaining a legal judgement;
  • Which was ultimately dismissed in favor of the victim.


Defamation is the act of intentionally defaming the name and/or reputation of an individual. There are two types of defamation:

  • Libel is a written communication that defames an individual.
  • Slander is a verbal communication of information that defames an individual.

To prove the tort of defamation, you must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant made a defamatory statement about the plaintiff;
  • The statement was false; and
  • The statement was published to a third party, which caused injury to the plaintiff.

In a defamation showing, the statement must be false. Truth is an absolute defense to defamation. Third party communication is also necessary. Merely making the statement to the plaintiff, with no one else hearing it, is not enough to meet the elements of the tort.


Fraud is a commonly litigated tort in North Carolina courts. Its elements include:

  • An intentional and deliberate lie; that
  • Is relied up by a third party; and
  • Causes a tangible harm to the individual who relied on the lie.

Trespass To Land Or Chattels

Under North Carolina law, trespass is an intentional tort against property. There are generally two types. Trespass to land refers to the intentionally and unauthorized intrusion onto the real property of another. The intention refers to entrance onto the property, not necessarily intention to trespass. Trespass to chattel refers to the invasion of a person’s personal property. It may apply in situations where the at-fault party damages the property or deprives the victim or possession.


The tort of conversion applies when an individual intentionally interferes with the personal property rights of another person. It includes four elements:

  • Plaintiff owned a right of possession at the time of the tort;
  • The defendant intentionally interfered with the right of ownership; and
  • The interference deprived the plaintiff of his rightful possession and use;
  • Causing damage to the plaintiff.