Specific Intent vs. General Intent

Intent Requirement

In order to prove an intentional tort, such as assault or battery, the plaintiff must show that the defendant intended to commit the tort. Intent may be either specific or general.

Specific Intent

A defendant has specific intent when he or she acts with the intention to cause certain consequences and those consequences occur.

For example, a defendant swings a baseball bat at a plaintiff’s head, hoping to cause severe injury to the plaintiff. The bat hits the plaintiff’s head, causing severe injury. The defendant had the specific intent to commit a battery upon the plaintiff because he or she acted with the intention of severely injuring the plaintiff and the plaintiff was severely injured.

General Intent

A defendant has general intent when he or she knows with substantial certainty that certain consequences will occur and those consequences occur.

For example, a defendant pulls a chair out from under a plaintiff as the plaintiff is about to sit down. The plaintiff falls onto the ground and is injured. Although the defendant may not have intended to injure the plaintiff, the defendant had the general intent to commit battery because he or she knew with substantial certainty that pulling the chair out from under the plaintiff would cause him or her to fall onto the ground.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.


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