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The following are a few general tips on what an intentional tort is and how it may apply to you in a personal injury claim.

What is an Intentional Tort?

An intentional tort arises when someone tries to injure a person or acts with substantial certainty that his actions would injure a person. The most common intentional torts include:

  • Assault (causing a reasonable apprehension of imminent harm or offensive contact);
  • Battery (intentionally, negligently or voluntarily causing non-consensual physical harm or offensive conduct on a person or something closely associated with them (e.g. trying to snatch their purse.); or
  • False Imprisonment (Restraint of a person in a bounded area without legal justification or consent).

A’New’ Emerging Intentional Tort 

In Australia, there is also the emergence of the potential tort of invasion of privacy. Traditionally, Australia did not have a general right to privacy since Victoria Park Racing and Recreation Grounds Co Ltd v Taylor (1937) 58 CLR 479.

However, with the more recent case in Australian Broadcasting Commission v Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd (2001) 208 CLR 19, the High Court has considered and left open the possibility of an invasion of privacy tort in Australian common law. However, the majority also held that if a tort for invasion of privacy were to be developed in Australian law, it should be limited to the protection of a natural person’s privacy (as opposed to a company or similar entity).

Defences to an Intentional Tort


A mistake is rarely a defence to an intentional tort because of the requirement for the tort to be caused recklessly or intentionally. However, mistake based upon a “reasonable suspicion” or belief may be appropriate as a defence in limited circumstances such as a police officer seizes goods that are reasonably thought to be stolen, but end up being a mistake of fact.

Inevitable Accident

An inevitable accident defence arises when the defendant establishes that the consequences of the action were not intended and could not have been avoided by taking reasonable care in the circumstances. An example of this would be in a motor vehicle accident caused by a defendant who loses control of their vehicle because they suffer a heart attack with no previous history of heart conditions.


Consent to an action may be a valid defence and the consent is required to be given to the action complained of (e.g. consent to sex, consent to engage in a sport with physical risk of injury, etc.). Consent however, may be withdrawn at any time and the defence cannot be engaged if the consent was withdrawn at the time of the alleged tort.

Consent may be expressed or implied and even silence may be interpreted as consent in certain circumstances. However, consent is not established where it is a product of:

  • Fraud extending to the act itself (e.g. a case where a woman consented to sex in the belief that she was married to the man, which ended up being fraudulently induced by the man. He was not found guilty of rape.
  • Duress (being threatened). This is especially relevant in cases where there is a clear position of authority imbalance such as a police officer who uses their authority to induce a person to attend a police station even though they are not under arrest.

The key to consent as a defence is that the action complained of remains within the consent given. For example, an athlete may consent to playing in a sport that may involve tackling, but the consent does not extend to physical contact that are outside the rules of the game such as punching or tackling outside the boundary of the rules.

Consent – Medical Treatment

There are also consent issues that arise with respect to the doctor-patient relationship and consent given for medical procedures. A lot of people are unaware that a consent waiver alone is insufficient to engage the defence of consent. A medical professional must explain the medical procedure and its risks along with the signing of the waiver in order for the defence of consent to be engaged.

If the patient is a minor, the evidence must show that the minor has intellectual and emotional capacity, sufficient intelligence and and an understanding to comprehend the implications and nature of the medical treatment.

Parental consent is not sufficient to authorize treatment that is clearly non-beneficial (e.g. the treatment needs to be in the consequence of an immediate physical problem that warrants the procedure). The court should be sought for authorization before undertaking treatment that is serious and irreversible.

Unlike parental consent however, a minor does not have an overriding veto over a court making a determination in the best interests of the child.

If the patient is unable to consent because they are mentally ill or incompetent, then a medical practitioner is not guilty of battery if they treat the patient with accordance with the medical practitioner’s clinical judgment and in the patient’s best interests. The patient’s next of kin has no legal right of veto or authority to refuse treatment on the patient’s behalf.

Self-Defence (Defending Oneself or Others)

In order to rely on self-defence, the force must be reasonably necessary and must not be excessive in the circumstances to defend oneself.

What constitutes reasonable force is a question of fact depending on the circumstances.

Even if a defendant is liable for excessive force, they may still have a counterclaim against the plaintiff for the initial attack.

Defending Property

This defence is only available if the defendant has a title or licence to the property. Reasonable counter-force must be applied to expel a forceful trespass.

In Hackshaw v Shaw (1984) 155 CLR 614 at 640, the High Court noted the danger of excessive force to protect property in this case where a farmer armed with guns lay waiting for petrol thieves in his farm and fired at the alleged vehicle that led to a hidden woman passenger in the car being shot. The farmer was liable for the losses.


A defence may be made to justify to infringe on someone’s rights and interests for the purpose of preventing harm to that person’s interests or the interests of others. Two criteria must be satisfied:

  • Imminent danger, or at least the appearance of imminent danger to a reasonable person; and
  • The steps must be reasonably necessary in the circumstances.

To determine if the defence is available, one most consider if the actions where necessary to protect a person or property even though an innocent may suffer a loss. An example is a circumstance where a defendant tries to prevent flooding to their own property and in doing so, caused the flooding of a neighbor’s property.

Can the Defendant Pay? 

The practicality of commencing an intentional tort will often depend on whether or not a defendant has the financial capacity to pay a judgment. Thus, it is important to speak with a personal injury lawyer about pursuing this course of action because the harsh reality is that if the defendant has no personal insurance or other assets to pay a judgment, then pursuing the litigation route may end up being just a costly waste of time.

Be sure to instruct your solicitor on any information that they can use to determine whether or not it is feasible to pursue an intentional tort claim:

  • Any property that is known to be in the defendant’s name;
  • Any property that may be passed as an inheritance in a will;
  • Assets that are held in joint names;
  • Information regarding the defendant’s past income and current employment;
  • Instruction on whether or not the defendant is aware of potential litigation and if he/she may potentially be taking steps to liquidate or move their assets;
  • The value of the defendant’s car, boat and other assets other than property; and/or
  • Whether or not the conduct of the defendant occurred while he/she was working under the scope of their employment.

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    Managing Director

    Sean Delpopolo

    Sean Delpopolo

    Sean is a Queensland Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law.*

    Sean specialises in work injury claims, workplace injury claims, motor vehicle accident injury claims, motorcycle accident injury claims, other road accident injury claims, brain and head injury claims, spinal injury claims, public liability injury claims, death and fatal injury claims, psychiatric and psychological injury claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    He has been running personal injury claims in Queensland for over 25 years. Sean founded our firm in 2004 and the firm has grown and gone from strength to strength on the background of outstanding service, incredible results and charging really fair fees.

    With an innate sense of fairness and justice, this motivates Sean and his team to do everything they can to ensure that the results they achieve for their clients are something that they can all be proud of. In Sean’s mind, the interests of the firm’s clients come first, before anything else, and this value has flowed on through to the entire team.

    As a father of two daughters, Sean understands that his clients’ personal injury claims can make a huge difference to their lives and the lives of those around them. This is why he has made it his life’s work to fight for the “little guy” to obtain the compensation they deserve.

    * To find out more about what it takes to become an Accredited Specialist click here.


    Helen Ashton

    Helen Ashton

    Helen is a Queensland Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law.*

    As an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law, having been awarded the highest achiever award for the course in 2015, Helen has a high level of knowledge and technical expertise. Admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland in 2001, she also has extensive experience in running all types of personal injury claims.

    Helen specialises in work injury claims, workplace injury claims, motor vehicle accident, motorcycle accident injury claims, other road accident injury claims, medical negligence claims, construction accident claims, mining accident claims, public liability injury claims, death and fatal injury claims, psychiatric and psychological injury claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    Helen has a friendly and approachable personality and strives to ensure that her clients are kept well informed and are provided with quality and practical legal advice.

    As a mother of three young children, Helen understands the impact events can have on a family unit and works proactively to achieve the right result for her clients in the shortest possible timeframe. Helen has the ability and the experience to assist clients with a wide variety of claims, including any personal injury claims with a high level of complexity and those that have had catastrophic consequences.

    * To find out more about what it takes to become an Accredited Specialist click here.

    Special Counsel

    Nickelle Morris

    Nickelle Morris

    Nickelle is an expert in personal injury claims and has been recognised by the Queensland Law Society as an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law.* She was awarded the highest achiever award for the accreditation course which she completed in 2022. Nickelle was also a finalist in the Special Counsel of the Year category in the Australian Law Awards in 2019.

    Nickelle has been practising exclusively in personal injury litigation for over 20 years. She has extensive experience in catastrophic claims and fatality claims across all practice areas.

    Nickelle specialises in catastrophic injury claims (including traumatic brain injuries, acquired brain injuries and other head injuries, amputations, severe burns and spinal cord injuries resulting in tetraplegia, paraplegia and the like), National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIISQ) claims, work injury claims, workplace injury claims, motor vehicle accident injury claims, motorcycle accident injury claims, other road accident injury claims, public liability injury claims, medical negligence claims, death and fatal injury claims, psychiatric and psychological injury claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    Nickelle prides herself on being a technical, yet practical and compassionate lawyer. She takes her time to understand her client’s situation and to ensure that they have an understanding of their rights and entitlements. Nickelle is a tenacious and passionate advocate for her clients and is dedicated to being proactive in ensuring her client’s needs are met and achieving the best outcome for her clients.

    Outside of work, Nickelle is a mother of two children and is a member of a number of committees both within the legal industry and community.

    * To find out more about what it takes to become an Accredited Specialist click here.

    Special Counsel

    Barry Mcgee

    Barry has always loved a spirited debate, and, with over 20 years specialising exclusively in personal injury litigation, his passion, skill and ability to assist his clients is well known throughout the Queensland profession.

    Barry specialises in work injury claims, workplace injury claims, motor vehicle accident injury claims, motorcycle accident injury claims, other road accident injury claims, construction accident claims, mining accident claims, public liability injury claims, death and fatal injury claims, psychiatric and psychological injury claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    Barry’s legal career began in his native Scotland, where he qualified as a Solicitor in 1998. Upon qualifying, he worked for a boutique practice, and then a top-tier national firm, representing a number of different insurers across a variety of industries. With years of working for insurers under his belt, Barry is able to see matters through the eyes of his legal opponents. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say!

    He was admitted to practice by the Supreme Court of Queensland in 2007. In Australia, he commenced working for a large national firm, where he spent 15 years practicing in personal injury litigation. He was made a Partner of the firm in 2011 and spent 11 years as the firm’s dedicated in-house Special Counsel. As Special Counsel, Barry provided expert advocacy and strategical advice and assistance to the firm’s personal injury lawyers and clients of the firm alike.

    Barry has significant and extensive experience across a wide variety of personal injury claims. He is compassionate, personable and straightforward, with a keen sense of what is fair and just and a reputation for not settling for anything less than his client deserves.

    Outside of work he enjoys surfing, the outdoors, music and spending time with his wife and 3 young children.

    Special Counsel

    Charlotte Evans

    Charlotte has practised exclusively in personal injury compensation litigation for over 20 years.

    Charlotte specialises in sexual abuse claims, work injury claims, workplace injury claims, motor vehicle accident injury claims, motorcycle accident injury claims, other road accident injury claims, construction accident claims, mining accident claims, public liability injury claims, death and fatal injury claims, psychiatric and psychological injury claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    She is committed to fighting for the rights of plaintiffs and helping her clients through the legal maze, to achieve outcomes that put people back in control of their lives. She has had experience in taking a number of personal injury cases to Trial and winning hard fought cases for her clients and she does not shy away from a challenge.

    Charlotte has a friendly and approachable personality and strives to cut through the legal jargon to make the personal injury claim process understandable for her clients whilst ensuring that her clients are also kept well informed throughout their claim.

    Out of the office Charlotte is a busy Mum, who now enjoys the privileges of living in beautiful Queensland and making the most of all it has to offer.

    Special Counsel

    Prue Prescott

    Prue has been running personal injury claims for nearly 20 years. This has involved acting for injured claimants in most areas of personal injury law including workers’ compensation injury claims, motor vehicle accident injury claims, public liability injury claims, death and fatality claims, psychiatric injury claims, National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIISQ) claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    Prue enjoys handling the more complex claims, such as traumatic brain injury, fatal injury and nervous shock claims, as well as claims involving complex legal principles. Prue seeks to use her Masters qualification in writing and literature to tell each and every client’s individual story, ensuring they are treated fairly by insurers and that they obtain the compensation they deserve.

    In 2019, Prue was nominated by the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland Inc as an Inspirational Lawyer.

    Outside of work, Prue is a busy mum of boys but also tries to find the time to read, write and explore nature.

    Office Manager

    Julie Hollonds

    Julie is a highly dedicated and experienced office manager who has been an integral part of our team for the past 14 years. Bringing a wealth of knowledge with over 35 years of experience in administration, Julie keeps our office running smoothly and efficiently.

    Outside of work, Julie loves to walk, snorkel, spend time with friends and explore the beautiful Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.

    Legal Assistant

    Aleisha Harrigan

    Having worked as a legal assistant for over five years, Aleisha has a wealth of experience in the field of personal injury. Since joining East Coast Lawyers, she has been an essential part of providing invaluable support to solicitors and our clients. Her abilities extend beyond legal matters with Aleisha providing training to our assistants and administrative team, and streamlining processes and procedures, ensuring that the workflows operate smoothly and effectively.

    Outside of work, Aleisha has a passion for reading and music. She can often be found immersed in a good book or a live concert. She values spending quality time with her family, friends and her beloved dog, Kevin.

    Legal Assistant

    Kym Arrowsmith

    Kym is a knowledgeable legal assistant with fifteen years of expertise in the field of personal injury law. She is passionate about supporting clients through the process and obtaining the best possible outcome for them. As a valued member of our team, Kym takes pride in her work and is committed to sharing her extensive experience and knowledge with our other team members.

    When Kym is not busy with work, she loves spending time with her family and friends, and enjoys discovering new places, whether it be through the pages of a biography or on her push bike.

    Legal Assistant

    Alece Turner

    Alece is a law student who is extremely motivated and passionate about personal injury law. She is hardworking, and always strives to produce the best possible results for our clients.

    Her dedication and eagerness to learn more about the law makes Alece a great addition to our team.

    When not working or studying, she loves spending time with her son at the beach or at one of our amazing theme parks.

    Legal Assistant

    Georgia Ryan

    Georgia recently joined the team in February 2023 and has been working within the industry for the last three years. She is enthusiastic about helping new and existing clients, and with her bubbly personality and can-do approach makes her an excellent addition to our team.

    Raised in Tasmania, Georgia moved to Queensland in early 2017 and hasn’t regretted it since. She loves the warm weather and lifestyle. Outside of work, Georgia loves travelling, dining out and spending time with family and friends.

    Legal Assistant

    Claire Rezny

    Claire is one of our hard working and devoted Legal Assistants. With over 25 years’ administrative experience, her attention to detail, willingness to help others, and calm demeanour makes her a real asset to our team.

    Claire is well travelled and, during her time in the USA, Claire discovered a newfound love for reading, which led her to become a proofreader for several published novels. Claire also enjoys landscape and wildlife photography and spending time with her family and puppy.

    Receptionist and Administrative Assistant

    Ella Donnelly

    Meet Ella, our receptionist and administrative assistant, with a passion for law and criminology. She is currently working towards a career in the police force. Ella is always eager to help others and is dedicated to providing excellent customer service to our clients.

    Ella’s bubbly and outgoing personality shines, making her a perfect receptionist. Despite her busy timetable with working and studying, Ella finds time to pursue her love of acting. Being a performer at heart, Ella has had a chance to showcase her natural flair for the arts in theatre productions.


    Shayla Riley

    Shayla is the newest member of our administration team and has an extensive background in customer service.

    Shayla’s bubbly personality and can-do attitude makes her the perfect person for her administration support role.

    She has a passion for the Law and has completed her Diploma of Justice Studies with aspirations to further her career by studying a Bachelor of Laws.

    When Shayla is not in the office you will find her at the beach with her two dogs, Bear and Ella or at home reading a good book.