Transferred Intent

Tort law is divided into two sections by intent. There is intentional tort, which is when one party meant to inflict harm on another; and there is unintentional tort, which is when harm was accidental. If someone meant to cause harm to one person, but accidentally harmed a third party, the doctrine of transferred intent makes the offender guilty of deliberately harming the third party.

Applicable Areas

In order for intent to be transferred to an innocent third party, the offender must have originally intended to harm another person. Under tort law, there are five areas in which intent can be transferred:

• Battery

• Assault

• False imprisonment

• Trespass to land

• Trespass to chattels

Examples of transferred intent could include:

• Person A is trying to shoot person B but misses. Innocent bystander, person C, is hit accidentally. The intent is transferred from person B to C, and person A is guilty of “intent to kill.” In this way, intent follows the bullet.

• Person A is swinging a bat at person B, but on the backswing, he accidentally hits innocent bystander, person C. Intent is carried over to person C.

• Bank robbers holding customers and employees hostage while they steal money is considered false imprisonment.

• Person A is forced by person B to go into person C’s land. Person C can only file a claim against person B, because person A’s actions were involuntary.

• Person A interferes with person B’s ownership of their cattle by harming the cattle.


There is much controversy over how to deal with an assault when the victim is pregnant. In the US, assaulting a pregnant woman closest transfers the intent to harm to the unborn child. in spite of of whether or not the perpetrator was aware that the woman was pregnant, he or she is guilty of assault on two individuals, already if they did not intend to harm or kill the child. If, however, it is proven that the offender did average to harm/kill the unborn child, they will be charged with intent to kill.

Although transferring intent is often associated with criminal charges, there are several scenarios where transferred intent pertains to civil torts. If you have been injured by another party’s recklessness, you need assistance from an experienced attorney. For more information on transferred intent, contact Austin’s personal injury lawyer Vic Feazell, P.C. today.

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