The Offensiveness Torts
forthcoming, Journal of Tort Law (2024)
42 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2023
Date Written: August 15, 2023
Three established torts require the defendant’s behavior to be “offensive” or “highly offensive” in order to be actionable: offensive battery, public disclosure of true private facts, and intrusion on seclusion. Although what links these “offensiveness” torts together has not been recognized before, this Article demonstrates that they occupy a sub-category of tort liability that is coherent, insight-generating, and useful. The torts developed at different times and in a sense for different reasons, but all three rest on the same principle: the idea that individual autonomy involves not only inviolable bodily space, but also inviolable private and informational space. What counts as actionable wrongdoing for these torts depends on the cultural context, because what is considered offensive conduct may vary, as cultural conditions change. The typical victim (or observer) of one of these torts must plausibly have the reaction “How dare you?” for the offensiveness element of the tort to be satisfied. That is what links these three superficially disparate torts together, and warrants understanding them together, as protections against invasions of the different forms of inviolable space that are a core feature of every individual’s autonomy.
Keywords: Offensive battery, Disclosure Privacy, Intrusion on Seclusion, Invasion of Privacy
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