Defenses to Intentional Torts

In a previous article titled, “Intentional Torts: What Are They?” the three main intentional torts (battery, assault, and false imprisonment) were explained. Many people may believe that, since a tort has been committed against them, they are entitled to damages. However, this may not hold true, as there are defenses to intentional torts. A few defenses to intentional torts include:

  • Self-defense and defense of others;
  • Defense of property;
  • Consent; and
  • Necessity.

Self-defense and the defense of others are common defenses, especially in tort law. Self-defense and the defense of others allow the defendant to not be held liable for the use of reasonable physical force against the plaintiff. As an example, if Person A is aiming a gun at Person B, Person B may be inclined to use their gun to shoot the offender (Person A). In tort law, this would be a legitimate defense, as Person B was attempting to protect themselves, and potentially others around him or her. However, if Person A was in a physical altercation with Person B and punched him or her, Person B would not be able to shoot Person A, as it would not be reasonable to do so.

The defense of property differs slightly from self-defense and the defense of others. Here, it is acceptable to use reasonable force to protect your property from intruders. However, the defendant is unable to use lethal force to protect such property. As an example, if Person A is trespassing on Person B’s property, Person B is not allowed to shoot Person A. Person B may be inclined to chase Person A off his or her property, but he or she cannot use lethal force against Person A.

Consent is when a person gives permission to another to do something that, ordinarily, would be considered illegal or wrong. Consent is a very important defense, especially for sports. When a person enters into a sports game, for example, basketball, the person usually consents or gives permission, to typical fouls and trips. However, a person would not consent to being tackled in a basketball game. The idea of consent strongly depends on the specific situation.

The last defense is necessity. Necessity refers to when there is a dire need to interfere with another’s property rights to reasonably protect themselves or others. Necessity can be broken down into two subcategories:

  • Public necessity, and
  • Private necessity.

A public necessity is when the defendant interferes with the plaintiff’s property rights to protect the public at large. An example of this is fire breaking. When firefighters are attempting to stop a fast-moving fire from spreading, they often intentionally burn whatever is in its path. This can include vegetation and homes, as these are fuel sources for fires. Here, the firefighters (defendants) would have a legitimate excuse for burning the plaintiff’s property, as it was to protect the public at large.

On the other hand, private necessity refers to when the defendant interferes with the plaintiff’s property rights to reasonably protect themselves. For example, if a person is running from a criminal with a lethal weapon and said person trespasses onto someone else’s land to seek shelter, the private necessity defense is reasonable, as they are protecting themselves from a reasonable, foreseeable danger.

Tort law can be quite complicated. If you believe that you have been a victim of a tort or exhibited any of the above defenses against a tortfeasor, it is important to contact an experienced New Jersey personal injury lawyer. The skilled attorneys at the Rinaldo Law Group, LLChave extensive knowledge and experience in handling torts, including assaults, batteries, false imprisonment, and negligence matters, such as auto accidents. For more information or to schedule a consultation with our New Jersey injury attorneys, please contact us today at 908-352-2500.

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