When one spouse injures another or acts in a way that causes damage to the other spouse beyond the ordinary grounds for divorce, a case may be presented for one or more domestic torts. A “tort” is a civil offense committed by one person against another person, which results in damages to the victim. For example, if somebody defames you in writing or by speaking false statements about you, he or she may be liable for the tort of libel or the tort of slander. Similarly, if a person punches you in the face, he or she may be liable for the tort of battery. The victim of a tort may file a civil lawsuit for damages to pay for his or her injuries or other losses. Some torts, such as assault and battery, are also recognized as crimes under state law. A crime is prosecuted by state officials, and results in the imposition of fines or imprisonment. A tort results in an award of damages (money) to the victim.
A domestic tort is a tort which is committed by one spouse against the other spouse. Years ago, a person could not sue his or her spouse for a tort because the law created an immunity for such events. Today, however, in most states, it is possible to file suit against your spouse for assault, battery, infliction of emotional distress, conversion of marital assets, fraud, negligence and other tort offenses.
In a divorce proceeding, a party can, therefore, ask for a divorce and all of the rights associated with a divorce (alimony, division of property, child support, etc.), and can also, at the same time, plead a case for one or more torts. For example, a woman who has been seriously injured by an abusive husband may wish to seek a divorce, as well as damages for assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
For more information about domestic torts, please feel free to contact the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick. Our firm has extensive experience in the representation of parties in both matrimonial and civil tort claims.