At its most basic level, it is a civil wrong against another, other than wrongs involving contracts. There are several categories of torts, but I’ll save you the boring legal jargon.

Some examples of common tort claims include:

  • Intentional Torts
    • Assault:Intentionally causing the reasonable apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact.  No physical contact is required.
    • Battery: Bringing about harmful or offensive contact with a person (or something within close proximity to that person) without that person’s consent.  This requires physical contact.
    • False Imprisonment: Intentionally confining another without legal authority.
    • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: Conduct that causes extreme emotional distress.
  • Property Torts
    • Trespass to Land:Intentionally entering the land of another without that person’s permission.
    • Conversion: Willfully interfering with another person’s personal property in such a way that it deprives that person possession of the same.
  • Dignitary Torts
    • Defamation: Making a false statement about a person that harms his or her reputation.  The statement must be made to a third party.
    • Invasion of Privacy: Simply, intruding into another’s personal life without just cause.  This is rare.
  • Economic Torts
    • Fraud: Deceiving another for personal gain.
    • Tortious Interference: Knowingly interfering with the business relationship of another.
  • Negligence (by far the most common): The failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in similar circumstances.  This is a harm caused by carelessness, not intentional harm.
This list is not exhaustive, I just picked the ones you probably hear about the most.  There are a variety torts, but the thing you should know most of all is that these are not punishable criminally.  How do you win?  Money, usually.  Thus, when you’re sitting on a jury and the defendant really did do it, don’t be offended when the plaintiff asks to be awarded money.