Most civil lawsuits are typically considered “unintentional torts”, wherein the defendant did not actually intend to specifically cause harm, such as in a negligence claim. However, there is a separate branch of tort law known as “intentional torts” which typically includes assault, battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

However, there are numerous cases where one person may intentionally cause harm or damage to another party, but ends up inadvertently causing harm to someone other than their intended target. In these cases, the doctrine of transferred intent applies, which can be summed up with the saying, “Intent follows the bullet.” That is, if you are injured by one person’s intent to harm another, it is considered the same as if they intended to harm you.

  • Assault and Battery: If someone throws a knife intending to injure another, and ends up striking you in the process, their intent to harm has transferred on to you.
  • False Imprisonment: If a shopkeeper suspects someone of shoplifting, and locks the front door to his store, preventing any of his customers from leaving until he finds the thief, his intent to imprison has transferred on to you (although it is important to note that shopkeepers tend to have special protections under the law regarding the apprehension of shoplifters).
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: If a prankster sends a letter to your father falsely informing him that your mother has perished in a car accident, and you open the letter and read it, suffering emotional harm as a result, the prankster’s intent to cause emotional harm has been transferred.

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This article is not intended to serve as, or as a replacement for, legal advice. If you have been injured by someone else, intentionally or otherwise, contact the New York City personal injury lawyer, Orlow, Orlow & Orlow, P.C.