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Dignitary torts

Dignitary torts

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Dignitary torts are a specific category of intentional tort
Intentional tort
An intentional tort is a category of torts that describes a civil wrong resulting from an intentional act on the part of the tortfeasor. The term negligence, on the other hand, pertains to a tort that simply results from the failure of the tortfeasor to take sufficient care in fulfilling a duty...

s where the cause of action is being subjected to certain kinds of indignities. Historically, this category of torts was often covered by the old English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 writ of trespass vi et armis
Vi et armis
Trespass vi et armis was a kind of lawsuit at common law called a tort. The cause of action alleged a trespass upon person or property vi et armis, Latin for "by force and arms." The plaintiff would allege in a pleading that the act committing the offense was "immediately injurious to another's...


Historically, the primary dignitary torts were battery
Battery (tort)
At common law, battery is the tort of intentionally and voluntarily bringing about an unconsented harmful or offensive contact with a person or to something closely associated with them . Unlike assault, battery involves an actual contact...

, assault
Assault (tort)
In common law, assault is the tort of acting intentionally, that is with either general or specific intent, causing the reasonable apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact. Because assault requires intent, it is considered an intentional tort, as opposed to a tort of negligence...

, and false imprisonment
False imprisonment
False imprisonment is a restraint of a person in a bounded area without justification or consent. False imprisonment is a common-law felony and a tort. It applies to private as well as governmental detention...

, as each claimed harm to a person's human dignity. A cause of action could be brought for battery, for example, even if no injury was done to the plaintiff, so long as the contact would be offensive to a reasonable person. Under modern jurisprudence the category of dignitary torts is more closesly associated with secondary dignitary torts, most notably defamation (slander and libel), false light
False light
False light is a legal term that refers to a tort concerning privacy that is similar to the tort of defamation. The privacy laws in the United States include a non-public person's right to privacy from publicity which puts them in a false light to the public; which is balanced against the First...

, intentional infliction of emotional distress
Intentional infliction of emotional distress
Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a tort claim of recent origin for intentional conduct that results in extreme emotional distress. Some courts and commentators have substituted mental for emotional, but the tort is the same...

, invasion of privacy
Invasion of privacy
United States privacy law embodies several different legal concepts. One is the invasion of privacy, a tort based in common law allowing an aggrieved party to bring a lawsuit against an individual who unlawfully intrudes into his or her private affairs, discloses his or her private information,...

, and alienation of affections
Alienation of affections
At common law, alienation of affections is a tort action brought by a deserted spouse against a third party alleged to be responsible for the failure of the marriage...

. In some jurisdictions, the phrase is limited to those torts which do not require physical injury or threat of physical injury, limiting the class to only those secondary incidents.

The only non-intentional act classified as a dignitary tort is negligent infliction of emotional distress
Negligent infliction of emotional distress
The tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress is a controversial cause of action, which is available in nearly all U.S. states but is severely constrained and limited in the majority of them. The underlying concept is that one has a legal duty to use reasonable care to avoid causing...

, although this is also sometimes classified as simply another form of negligence
Negligence is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances. The area of tort law known as negligence involves harm caused by carelessness, not intentional harm.According to Jay M...