Washington Intentional Civil Causes of Action

Rights and Defenses

Washington intentional civil causes of action (as opposed to unintentional or negligent) result from voluntary action that is made with intent to bring about a harmful result.

Intent requires a determination of the state of mind of the defendant at the time of the action-in-question.

Comment- Don’t be confused by the fact that many intentional torts, which are civil law violations, have corresponding criminal violations. For example, there is civil battery and there is criminal battery. Also, remember that a civil infraction results in an award of damages to a plaintiff, whereas a criminal infraction may result in imprisonment of the defendant.

Types of Washington intentional civil causes of action (intentional torts)

I. Assault- civil assault is an attempted physical harm, or intentional threat of physical harm, that places a plaintiff in reasonable apprehension that immediate physical harm is about to occur to him. No physical contact needs to occur for a defendant to be held liable for assault.

II. Battery- civil battery is an intentional harmful or offensive contact with a plaintiff causing injury.

III. False imprisonment- false imprisonment is an intentional unlawful confinement of a plaintiff in a bounded area.

Comment- Most jurisdictions allow shopkeepers to hold suspected shoplifters for a period long enough to determine if shoplifting has occurred or until police arrive.

IV. Tort of Outrage (Infliction of Emotional Harm)- intentional infliction of emotional harm results from intentional or reckless outrageous behavior that results in extreme emotional harm to the plaintiff.

Example- Eddie calls June and tells her, in graphic detail, that her son, Theodore, has been murdered. In fact, Theodore has not been murdered and Eddie has only done this to torment June. June suffers from nightmares and depression for months. Eddie will be liable for intentional infliction of emotional harm.

Defenses to Washington intentional civil causes of action include-- a defendant accused of committing an intentional tort has a number of legally recognized defenses, including:

I. Consent- a plaintiff who consented to the defendant’s activity cannot sue for damages. Consent can be express or implied.

a. Express consent- verbal (i.e., written or oral) communication of words granting permission for the conduct that caused the intentional tort.

b. Implied consent- permission granted using other than verbal communication.

Example- Mia participates in a soccer game knowing the amount of physical contact expected during a soccer game. Mia has implicitly consented to contact that is reasonable during a soccer game.

II. Defense of person or property- a defendant may not be held liable for damage resulting from an intentional tort if the damage was caused in defense of himself or another or if the damage resulted from defense of property.

a. defense of self or a third party- a person is entitled to defend himself or others through the use of force reasonably necessary to defend himself or another. Deadly force may be used only when the assailant reasonably appears to be using or about to use deadly force.

Comment- Some jurisdictions require that before deadly force can be used in self-defense, the person claiming self-defense must attempt to retreat from the assailant. Typically, one is not required to retreat from their own home before using deadly force.

b. defense of property- defense of property allows use of force reasonably necessary to defend one’s property. Deadly force may never be used to defend property.

III. Arrest- a police officer will not be held liable for battery if during the course of executing his duties, he uses reasonable force to make an arrest of an individual whom he reasonably believes committed, or was about to commit, a crime.

If you believe you have a similar cause of action, contact a Washington lawyer now.

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