Two Definitions of Tort

A negligent or intentional civil wrong not arising out of a contract or statute. These include "intentional torts" such as battery or defamation, and torts for negligence.

A tort is an act that injures someone in some way, and for which the injured person may sue the wrongdoer for damages. Legally, torts are called civil wrongs, as opposed to criminal ones. (Some acts like battery, however, may be both torts and crimes; the wrongdoer may face both civil and criminal penalties.)

Family and Torts

Under traditional law, family members were prohibited from suing each other for torts. The justification was that allowing family members to sue each other would lead to a breakdown of the family. Today, however, many states recognize that if family members have committed torts against each other, there often already is a breakdown in family relationships. Thus, they no longer bar members from suing each other. In these states, spouses may sue each other either during the marriage or after they have separated.

Normally, tort lawsuits against a spouse are brought separate and apart from any divorce, annulment or other family law case. Alabama, Georgia, Nevada, New York and Tennessee, however, allow or encourage combining the tort case with the family law case; New Jersey requires it.

The jurisdictions that still prohibit one family member from suing another include Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Wyoming and Washington, D.C. These places may make an exception when the tort is intentional. See, for example, Bounds v. Candle, 611 S.W.2d 685 (Texas 1980); Townsend v. Townsend, 708 S.W.2d 646 (Missouri 1986) and Green v. Green, 446 N.E.2d 837 (Ohio 1982).

Torts With and Without Force

An injury; a wrong; hence the expression "an executor de son tort", of his own wrong.

Torts may be committed with force, as trespasses, which may be an injury to the person, such as assault, battery, imprisonment; to the property in possession; or they may be committed without force. Torts of this nature are to the absolute or relative rights of persons, or to personal property in possession or reversion, or to real property, corporeal or encorporeal, in possession or reversion: these injuries may be either by nonfeasance, malfeasance, or misfeasance.