Torts Class Notes 8/26/03


Last timeÖwe talked about false imprisonment, and in particular, the threat to confine.


The Restatement of Torts says that to recover for false imprisonment, you must be aware of the imprisonment, or you must be harmed by it.


You must be actually confined; moral persuasion is insufficient for false imprisonment.


There arenít that many false imprisonment claims made in the world.False arrest and shoplifting claims are the most frequent cases.Usually, when someone says ďlet me outĒ, they are let out.


For confinement to be unlawful, it must be unconsented and unprivileged.


What kinds of injuries must you suffer to be able to recover for false imprisonment?You need to have physical, mental, or economic damages.You could even make a claim for nominal damages, but you probably wouldnít want to bother.


We generally donít want to encourage the practice of citizensí arrests.


In the end, why do we have false imprisonment claims?We want to ensure personal freedom and dignity, and we want to deter abuse by authority figures.We put limitations on the tort because we want to protect property rights and allow public officers to make appropriate decisions.



Whittaker v. Sandford


The plaintiff was in a cult and was kept on a yacht with her children.She wanted to get off the yacht, but the cult was trying to get her to stay in the cult.She wasnít allowed to leave the yacht on her own.The court ruled that this was false imprisonment.


Does it change the case if the yacht is nice?No.


What is another way to prove the intent to confine?She had the impression that she would be allowed off of the boat when they got to Maine.In this way, the cult leader created the duty to act, in other words, to let her off the boat.


Compare this to the case where a jailer fails to let a prisoner out when his term of punishment is up.


What about the case of deprogramming?Is this false imprisonment?Would it make a difference if the deprogrammers were medical professionals?Could the family members sue the cult for false imprisonment on behalf of the cult member?The problem is establishing whether the cult member is there voluntarily.Generally speaking, individuals are responsible for their own torts; people are free to associate with whoever they want.


Parents arenít liable for their childrenís torts, except by statute, for example if children are negligent in their supervision of their kids.


Mistake Ė Ranson v. Kitner


A hunter shoots a dog and kills it.The judgment in the trial court was for the plaintiff.The defense is that they did not intent to harm a dog, they intended to harm a wolf.The court says the defendants are liable because even though it was in good faith, youíre still liable.


Why would we have a rule like this?We might fear fraudulent claims of mistake.We also want to see the harmed person recover.If you have intent to harm, but harm someone or something else, youíre still liable.


We want defendants to bear the risks of their own mistakes.


Mistake does not negate intent.


McGuire v. Almy


Does insanity negate intent?


An insane person hurt a nurse.Are insane people liable for their torts?Yes, because you do the tort, you do the time.We favor the injured person over the injurer.


What other justifications exist for holding an insane person liable?If youíre capable of forming the intent to cause harm, even if the intent is totally divorced from the reality of the situation, youíll be liable.


But why hold someone who has been committed to a mental institution liable?The intentional tort issue exists apart from negligence.Are relatives going to try to restraint the insane person?The court suggests we want the relatives to be responsible for keeping the person from hurting others.


This is a practical, utilitarian compensation rule.We donít want to get into fault here, and we donít want courts to get too deep into the question of insanity.


Other countries donít hold insane people responsible for their torts.


As long as you have the intent to do harm, even if you think youíre Napoleon harming an enemy, youíll be liable.The law doesnít care what delusion the insane person is under when he commits the battery.Is this a good or fair rule?Well, it is the rule.


Talmage v. Smith Ė transferred intent


Smith owned several sheds and he found some boys sitting on his sheds.He told the boys to get off of one shed, and they did.He told some boys to get off a second shed, and threw a stick and hit one of them.The defendant says that he should only be found liable for assault because he didnít intend to hurt anyone, just to scare them.The court finds that the intent of assault transfers to the battery that actually occurs.


Transferred intent can only be transferred among a certain group of torts: assault, battery, false imprisonment, trespass to land and trespass to chattels.Neither conversion nor intentional infliction of emotional distress is covered.


Why do we have the doctrine of transferred intent?


Does this turn on the intent to act or the intent to harm?


The defendant must have had intent to cause harmful or offensive contact or apprehension thereof.Otherwise, the defendant is not going to be found liable for any intentional tort.


We donít hold people liable for intentional torts when they donít have intent.


Intentional Infliction of Mental Distress


1.     It must be intentional or reckless.

2.     There must be severe emotional distress.

3.     It must be extreme and outrageous.

4.     The plaintiff must suffer actual damages.

5.     Transferred intent does not apply.

6.     Third parties may or may not apply.

State Rubbish Collectors Assín v. Siliznoff


The SRCA sued Siliznoff to collect notes, and Siliznoff countersued and won.Siliznoff claims that he experienced severe mental suffering.


How does the court justify moving toward this new intentional infliction tort?


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