Intentional Torts

Intentional Torts

     An intentional tort is a civil wrong stemming from an intentional act on the part of a tortfeasor.  The main distinction between this type of tort and negligence is that intentional torts require that the act or conduct complained of be undertaken intentionally, as its name implies.  The following addresses the main categories of intentional torts with a brief description of each.


Assault and Battery


     In Nevada, an assault is defined as the threat of an imminent harmful or offensive touching.  A battery is an actual harmful or offensive touching.  Battery is commonly found where the defendant intentionally lays hands on Plaintiff without consent and with the intent to either harm or offend the Plaintiff.  An assault occurs when a defendant threatens a plaintiff with an imminent harmful or offensive touching; that is, where the plaintiff can prove he was threatened.


False Imprisonment/False Arrest


     False imprisonment is the intentional restraint of a person in a bounded area without justification or consent.  A person has a cause of action for false imprisonment even though he was not actually imprisoned, i.e. he was free to leave, so long as the tortfeasor led the victim to believe he was actually restrained and a reasonable person would have believed as the victim did.  In Nevada, the elements of a false imprisonment claim are: (1) Defendant acts intending to confine the other or a third person without boundaries fixed by the actor; (2) his act directly or indirectly results in such a confinement of the other; and (3) the other is conscious of the confinement or is harmed by it. 


     A false arrest occurs where a police officer or other state agent conducts a custodial arrest or otherwise physically restrains a person without the requisite probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that person committed the crime alleged.  A false arrest can also occur where a person was arrested for a minor misdemeanor where the circumstances did not warrant a full custodial arrest and detention, as where a police officer arrests an individual for violating a traffic ordinance which is punishable by a fine only, such as failing to yield or failing to use a turn signal, even though the violation of those ordinances are technically misdemeanor offenses.




     A conversion is a voluntary act by one person inconsistent with the ownership rights of another.  Conversion is a strict liability tort, which means that a person’s intent or fault is not a question, the act alone suffices for the purposes of liability.  Generally, the elements of a conversion cause of action are:


•   the plaintiff has clear legal ownership or right to possession of the property at the time of the conversion;

•   the defendant’s conversion by a wrongful act or disposition of plaintiff’s property rights;

•   there are damages resulting from the conversion.

     Alternatively, a claim for conversion may be shown where there has been a tortious conversion of the property or item in question, a right to that property and to the immediate possession of it which is absolute, unconditional, and not dependent upon the performance of some act.

Fraudulent Misrepresentation


     A fraud is an intentional misrepresentation, lie or deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual.  In Nevada, to prevail on a fraudulent misrepresentation cause of action, the plaintiff must prove:


1.     A false representation made by the defendant;

2.     Defendant’s knowledge or belief that its representation was false or that defendant has an insufficient basis of information for making the representation;

3.     Defendant intended to induce plaintiff to act or refrain from acting upon the misrepresentation; and

4.     Damage to the plaintiff as a result of relying on the misrepresentation. 


     At common law fraud had nine elements, some of which may also be pertinent in determining fraud under Nevada law, such as the following:


1.   a representation of an existing fact;

2.   its materiality;

3.   claim was in fact false;

4.   the speaker’s knowledge that representation was false;

5.   the speaker’s intent that it shall be acted upon by the plaintiff;

6.   plaintiff’s ignorance the fact or representation was false ;

7.   plaintiff’s reliance on the truth of the representation;

8.   plaintiff’s right to rely upon it; and

9.   damages suffered by plaintiff.

     In Nevada, as in almost all jurisdictions in the United States, each element of a fraud claim must be pled with particularity and proved by clear and convincing evidence (much like ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ level of proof required in the criminal law).  With respect to damages, fraud cases allow for compensatory, general, special and, in some instances, punitive damages where the conduct was clearly intentional, egregious and the loss great.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress


     Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is a claim arising out of intentional conduct that results in extreme emotional distress.  In Nevada, IIED claims can be difficult to establish and prove damages for.  In the first place, the complained of conduct must be ‘outrageous’, a standard not well defined.  In addition, that outrageous conduct must have caused extreme emotional distress, which generally must be shown by some physical manifestation of distress, such as losing consciousness, vomiting, shaking, and similar physical symptoms.