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In the common law, a tort is a wrong for which the law provides a remedy.
The term comes from Law French and means, literally, 'a wrong'. The "law of
torts" is a body of civil law or private law that covers the various legal
(money damages and equity remedy) which the law provides for civil wrongs
arising from extra-contractual liability, i.e., other than those wrongs
which arise from a breach of contractual obligations.
Under United States law, torts are generally divided into two categories:
intentional torts and non-intentional torts. Intentional torts include those
actions that are intentional and voluntary and that are made with knowledge
by the tortfeasor (i.e. the person who committed the tort) upon the
plaintiff (the one who brings the complaint seeking relief). Intentional
torts include: battery, assault (apprehension of harmful or offensive
contact), false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress,
the real property tort of trespass to land, and the personal property torts
of conversion and trespass to chattels.
Amongst unintentional torts one finds negligence as being the most common
source of ligitation in most American courts. It is a form of
extracontractual liability that is based upon a duty of care of a reasonable
person, who, being the proximate cause of damages, and but for the
tortfeasor's act, is the cause of damages to the plaintiff. Other
non-intentional torts include negligent infliction of emotional harm.
A cause of action in tort can also be distinguised from a criminal
prosecution which may arise from the alleged violation of a criminal
statute. The former is typically prosecuted by a private citizen, whereas
the latter is prosecuted by the state, and one or both may be brought forth
independently. Moreover, remedies for torts can take the form of
compensation for damages or injunctive relief. A criminal prosecution
usually results in the imposition of a sentence, such as a fine and/or
incarceration. There is also a difference in legal personality - to be
convicted of a crime you need to be an individual, wheras tort law regulates
companies and organisations like government and charities.