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Everyone has the right to not be injured and to not have their property damaged. When someone is injured or their property is damaged, we refer to it as a tort.

Tort – your legal claim against me because I damaged your property, injured you, or damaged your reputation.

  • Intentional torts – wanting to – intending to -- injure someone or damage their property
  • Negligent torts – injuring someone or damaging their property as a result of my carelessness; “I did not want to harm you but my carelessness resulted in you being injured or your property being damaged.”

Society is more concerned about intentional acts than negligent acts – we do not want people going about wanting to cause injury or damage. For this reason, we allow a person who is intentionally injured to be compensated for the injury (compensatory damages) as well as extract an additional payment to punish the wrongdoer (punitive damages).

Did I cause the injury or damage, or was the harm caused by someone or something else? I am only responsible for the injury or damage I caused.

Some examples of Torts

Trespass is the tort (the legal wrong) of entering onto your property without your permission. I am not allowed to be on your property unless you have given me permission to be there. You may bring a legal action against me for trespassing onto your land.

  • Do not need to touch your property to have trespassed; just intruding in your airspace is a trespass. A person not only owns the surface of the land but also the soil and minerals below the surface and the airspace above the surface. A person owns from “heaven to hell.”
  • Airplanes raised a real issue this past century; so the law was changed to allow airplanes to flight over the land of others without it being considered a trespass as long as the airplane does not interfere with the reasonable use of the land.

Conversion is the tort of me taking your personal property and converting it to mine; that is, I stole your personal property. You are now suing me to return the property, or to pay you the value of the property, or if I damaged the property, to return it plus cash to compensate you for the damages.

Nuisance – my action is interfering with your use and enjoyment of your property. That is, the noise, odor, dust, light, or similar condition that I create on my property is detracting from the usefulness of your property. I am not trespassing on your property; I have not entered onto your property, but the results of my action are interfering with the use of your property. Fro example, the dust, noise, and bugs that arise from my business interfere with your use of your home and yard.

Assault is the tort of me making an attempt to injure you. It is assumed to be an intentional tort; that is, I intended – I wanted – to injure you but for some reason I failed at my attempt. For example, I swung to hit you but I missed. This is the tort of assault. My failure to hit you does not diminish the seriousness of my wanting and attempting to harm you.

Battery is the tort that I injured you; I not only swung at you but I did strike you. Battery can be intentional – I wanted to hurt you -- but battery can also be unintentional -- I did not plan to strike you; I did not want to strike you, but my carelessness resulted in you being hurt.

  • I swung a bat intending to strike you – that is an intentional tort.
  • I swung a bat while warming up for me turn to bat during the neighborhood ballgame, but I was warming up close to the sidewalk and not paying attention to the situation that others were walking there. I swing, you are struck, I did not want to hurt anyone, but I was not paying attention that my actions could lead to your injury.

Wishnatsky v. Huey, 1998 ND App 8, 584 N.W.2d 859

Wrongful death is the tort that I caused your death and your survivors are bringing a legal action against me for the loss you have incurred because the family member had been killed. Wrongful death could be an intentional tort (I murder your family member) or an unintentional tort (my careless driving led to an accident that resulted in the death of your family member).

Slander – my spoken statement was a lie and that lie harmed your reputation; similar to libel.

Libel – my written statement was a lie and that lie harmed your reputation; similar to slander.
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