Copyright 1965, American Law Institute

Division One - Intentional Harms to Persons, Land, and Chattels
Chapter 1 - Meaning of Terms Used Throughout the Restatement of Torts


 (1)  The word "injury" is used throughout the Restatement of this Subject to denote the invasion of any legally protected interest of another.
(2)  The word "harm" is used throughout the Restatement of this Subject to denote the existence of loss or detriment in fact of any kind to a person resulting from any cause.
(3)  The words "physical harm" are used throughout the Restatement of this Subject to denote the physical impairment of the human body, or of land or chattels.


a.  "Injury" and "harm" contrasted.  The word "injury" is used throughout the Restatement of this Subject to denote the fact that there has been an invasion of a legally protected interest which, if it were the legal consequence of a tortious act, would entitle the person suffering the invasion to maintain an action of tort. It differs from the word "harm" in this: "harm" implies the existence of loss or detriment in fact, which may not necessarily be the invasion of a legally protected interest. The most usual form of injury is the infliction of some harm; but there may be an injury although no harm is done. Thus, any intrusion upon land in the possession of another is an injury, and, if not privileged, gives rise to a cause of action even though the intrusion is beneficial, or so transitory that it constitutes no interference with or detriment to the land or its beneficial enjoyment. So too, the mere apprehension of an intentional and immediate bodily contact, whether harmful or merely offensive, is as much an "injury" as a blow which breaks an arm. It is desirable to have a word to denote the type of result which, if the act which causes it is tortious, is sufficient to sustain an action even though there is no harm for which compensatory damages can be given. The meaning of the word "injury," as here defined, differs from the sense in which the word "injury" is often used, to indicate that the invasion of the interest in question has been caused by conduct of such a character as to make it tortious.

b.  "Harm" implies a loss or detriment to a person, and not a mere change or alteration in some physical person, object or thing. Physical changes or alterations may be either beneficial, detrimental, or of no consequence to a person. In so far as physical changes have a detrimental effect on a person, that person suffers harm. Acts or conditions which affect the personal tastes, likes, or dislikes of a person may be either beneficial to him, or detrimental, or of no consequence, the same as acts which affect physical things. In so far as these acts or conditions are detrimental to him, he suffers harm. Thus harm, as defined in this Section, is the detriment or loss to a person which occurs by virtue of, or as a result of, some alteration or change in his person, or in physical things, and also the detriment resulting to him from acts or conditions which impair his physical, emotional, or aesthetic well-being, his pecuniary advantage, his intangible rights, his reputation, or his other legally recognized interests. Frequently, where "harm" is used in this Restatement, it is qualified by some limiting adjective, such as bodily harm, physical harm, pecuniary harm, and the like. In each such case the intent is to limit the rule stated to the particular kind of harm specified. Where no such limiting adjective appears, the word is to be understood in the general sense here defined.

c.  Causal relation.  The term "harm" implies no particular causal relation. It may result from the acts of the person harmed, the acts of other persons, the forces of nature, or a combination of any of these sources. However, it is only when the harm is legally caused by the acts or omissions of another that a person has any legal grounds for objection, or any legal rights in respect to the harm.

d.  Harm not necessarily actionable.  Harm, like injury, is not necessarily actionable. Both, to be actionable, must be legally caused by the tortious conduct of another. In addition, harm, which is merely personal loss or detriment, gives rise to a cause of action only when it results from the invasion of a legally protected interest, which is to say an injury. Thus, where, as under the rule stated in § 436 A, the harm resulting from emotional distress which has no physical consequences is not an injury to an interest legally protected against conduct which is merely negligent, the harm is not actionable.

e.  Physical harm.  The words "physical harm" are used to denote physical impairment of the human body, or of tangible property, which is to say land or chattels. Where the harm is impairment of the body, it is called "bodily harm," as to which see § 15.

REPORTERS NOTES:  This Section has been changed from the first Restatement by the addition of Subsections (2) and (3). No other change in substance is intended.