actio personalis moritur cum persona

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[Latin: a personal action dies with the person concerned]

A maxim stating that actions of tort or contract are destroyed by the death of either the injured or the injuring party. Modern statutes mean that this is rarely the case. However, before the passing of the Fatal Accidents Act 1846 acceptance of this notion meant that in actions in negligence it was better for a doctor to kill his patient outright than to injure him. This situation arose because it was originally believed that the primary function of tort was to punish and not to compensate for damage caused. The maxim still survives in the law of defamation (“you cannot defame the dead”).

Subjects: Law.

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