Chapter 6

Text – Chapter 6
Learning Objectives
• Definition of Tort
• Interference with Personal Rights
• Interference with Property Rights
Definition of a Tort
• A tort is a civil wrong that is not a
breach of a contract
• Four types of wrongfulness are
– Intent
– Recklessness
– Negligence
– Strict liability
The Basics
• The standard of proof that the
plaintiff must satisfy in a tort case
is the preponderance of the
evidence standard
• A plaintiff who wins a tort case
usually recovers compensatory
damages for the harm suffered as
a result of defendant’s wrongful
Mathias v. Accor Economy Lodging
• Facts & Procedural History:
– Plaintiffs bitten by bedbugs during hotel
– Plaintiffs alleged defendant knowingly
disregarded evidence of bedbug
– Evidence: defendant knew of, ignored
– Jury awarded plaintiffs compensatory and
punitive damages
Mathias v. Accor Economy Lodging
• Law Applied to Facts:
– Defendant’s behavior was outrageous
but the compensable harm done was
slight and difficult to quantify (primarily
– Award of punitive damages in this case
serves purpose of limiting defendant’s
ability to profit from its fraud by
escaping detection and (private)
Interference with Personal Rights
• Battery
• Assault
• Intentional Infliction of Emotional
• False Imprisonment
• Defamation
• Invasion of Privacy
•6 - 7 Misuse of Legal Proceedings
• Intentional and harmful or offensive
touching of another without the
person’s consent
– No liability if person consented
• Contact is harmful if it produces bodily
injury, but battery includes nonharmful
contact that is offensive (reasonable
person standard)
– Example: Wishnatsky v. Huey case
• Assault occurs when there is an
intentional attempt or threat to cause
a harmful or offensive contact with
another person, if the attempt causes
a reasonable apprehension of
imminent battery in the other person’s
• Irrelevant whether threatened contact
6 - 9 really occurs, as long as plaintiff had
Intentional Infliction of Emotional
• Most courts allow recovery for
emotional distress even if no other tort
is proven
• All courts require the wrongdoer’s
conduct to be outrageous before
liability is imposed
• Most courts apply reasonable person
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False Imprisonment
• False imprisonment is intentional
confinement of another for an appreciable
time without his consent
– confinement must be complete, though a few
minutes is enough
– no liability if plaintiff consented to confinement
• Example: Banks v. Fritsch
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– Defendant’s conduct must be intentional or
reckless and outrageous, and plaintiff must
have suffered serious mental injury
• Defamation is an
(1) unprivileged
(2) publication of
(3) false and defamatory
(4) statements concerning another person
• Libel refers to written defamation and
slander refers to oral defamation
• Truth is a complete defense in a
defamation case
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• Another defense to defamation is
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– Examples: statements made by
participants in judicial proceedings, by
officials in the course of their duties, by
one spouse to the other in private, and fair
and accurate media reports (fair comment)
of defamatory matter that appears in
proceedings of official government action
or originates from public meetings
Defamation & Free Speech
• In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964),
the U.S. Supreme Court held that when a
public official brings a defamation case,
s/he must prove the usual elements of
defamation and actual malice (a First
Amendment–based fault requirement)
– Actual malice means knowledge of falsity or
reckless disregard for the truth
– (See Hearst Corp. v. Skeen)
• The holding of this case has been extended
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Invasion of Privacy
• Invasion of privacy refers to four
distinct torts:
– Intrusion on Solitude or Seclusion
• Applies only with a reasonable expectation of
– Public Disclosure of Private Facts
– False Light Publicity
– Commercial Appropriation of Name or
6 - 15
• Example: Comedy III Productions, Inc. v.
Comedy III Productions v. Saderup
• Facts & Procedural History:
– In California, the right of publicity is inheritable
– Comedy III Productions, Inc. owns rights of
publicity to the deceased celebrities familiar to
the public as “The Three Stooges”
– Without Comedy III’s consent, defendants
produced and profited from sale of lithographs
and T-shirts bearing a likeness of The Three
– Comedy III brought a right of publicity action
6 - 16
Comedy III Productions v. Saderup
• Issue:
– Did defendants violate a right of publicity?
• Legal Reasoning and Holding:
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– Saderup argues that his portraits of The
Three Stooges are expressive, transformative
works and must receive full First Amendment
– No significant transformative or creative
contribution exists in Saderup’s work
– If Saderup wishes to continue to depict The
Three Stooges as he has done, he may do so
Misuse of Legal Proceedings
• Three intentional torts protect people
against the harm that can result from
wrongfully instituted legal proceedings:
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– Malicious prosecution: wrongful institution
of criminal proceedings
– Wrongful use of civil proceedings:
wrongfully instituted civil suits
– Abuse of process: imposes liability on those
who initiate legal proceedings, whether
criminal or civil, for a primary purpose other
than the one for which the proceedings were
Deceit (Fraud)
• Deceit (or fraud) is the formal name
for the tort claim that is available to
victims of knowing or intentional
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– Often connected to a breach of contract
– Requires proof of false statement of
material fact, knowingly or recklessly
made by defendant with intent to induce
reliance by the plaintiff, along with actual,
Interference with Property Rights
• Trespass to Land
• Private Nuisance
• Conversion
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Trespass to Land
• Any unauthorized or unprivileged
intentional intrusion upon another’s real
property, including physically entering the
plaintiff’s land, causing another person or
object to do so, remaining on the land after
one’s right to remain has ceased, and
invading airspace above land or subsurface
• Intent required for liability is simply the
6 - 21 intent to be on the land, so a person may
Private Nuisance
• Involves some interference with
plaintiff ’s use and enjoyment of the
• Unlike trespass to land, nuisance
does not require a physical invasion of
the property
– May include odors, noise, smoke, light,
• Liability requires the interference to be
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• Defendant’s intentional exercise of
dominion or control over plaintiff’s
personal property without plaintiff’s
consent through:
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– Acquisition
– Removal
– Transfer to another
– Withholding possession
– Destruction or alteration

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