Intent in Tort Law

31 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2009 Last revised: 4 May 2009

Keith N. Hylton

Boston University - School of Law

Date Written: April 22, 2009

Abstract

This paper, prepared for the 2009 Monsanto Lecture in Tort Jurisprudence, explains intent standards in tort law on the basis of the incentive effects of tort liability rules. Intent rules serve a regulatory function by internalizing costs optimally. The intent standard for battery internalizes costs in a manner that discourages socially harmful acts and at the same time avoids discouraging socially beneficial activity. The intent standard for assault is more difficult to satisfy than that for battery because it is designed to provide a subsidy of a sort to the speech that is often intermixed with potentially threatening conduct. In addition to the optimal internalization goal, transaction costs play a role in the specification of intent requirements. The subtle difference between the intent requirements for trespass and battery can be explained on the basis of transaction costs.

Keywords: intent standards, cost internalization, trespass, battery, assault, mental states, optimal regulation, strict liability

JEL Classification: B21, K00, K13, K39

Suggested Citation

Hylton, Keith N., Intent in Tort Law (April 22, 2009). Boston Univ. School of Law Working Paper No. 09-21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1393300 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1393300

Keith N. Hylton (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-353-8959 (Phone)
617-353-3077 (Fax)

Paper statistics

Downloads
299
Rank
81,534
Abstract Views
1,959