Misfeasance in public office

Misfeasance in public office
Scale of justice 2.svg
English Tort law
Part of the common law series
Duty of care
Bolam test
Breach of duty
Breaking the chain
Acts of the claimant
Professional negligence
Psychiatric harm
Loss of chance
Loss of right
Res ipsa loquitur
Eggshell skull
Occupiers' liability
Occupiers' Liability Act 1957
Occupiers' Liability Act 1984
Strict liability
Vicarious liability
Rylands v Fletcher

Misfeasance in public office is a cause of action in the civil courts of England and Wales and certain Commonwealth countries. It is an action against the holder of a public office, alleging in essence that the office-holder has misused or abused his power. The tort can be traced back to 1703 when Chief Justice Holt decided that a landowner could sue a police Constable who deprived him of his right to vote.[1] The tort was revived in 1985 when it was used so that French Turkey producers could sue the Ministry of Agriculture over a dispute that harmed their sales.

Generally, a civil defendant will be liable for misfeasance if the defendant owed a duty of care toward the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty of care by improperly performing a legal act, and the improper performance resulted in harm to the plaintiff.

For example, assume that a janitor is cleaning a restroom in a restaurant. If he leaves the floor wet, he or his employer could be liable for any injuries resulting from the wet floor. This is because the janitor owed a duty of care toward users of the restroom, and he breached that duty by leaving the floor wet.

In theory, misfeasance is distinct from Nonfeasance. Nonfeasance is a term that describes a failure to act that results in harm to another party. Misfeasance, by contrast, describes some affirmative act that, though legal, causes harm. In practice, the distinction is confusing and uninstructive. Courts often have difficulty determining whether harm resulted from a failure to act or from an act that was improperly performed.

To illustrate, consider the example of the wet bathroom floor. One court could call a resulting injury the product of misfeasance by focusing on the wetness of the floor. The washing of the floor was legal, but the act of leaving the floor wet was improper. Another court could call a resulting injury the product of nonfeasance by focusing on the janitor's failure to post a warning sign.



In most cases, the essentials to bring an action of misfeasance in public office are that the office-holder acted illegally, knew he was doing so, and knew or should reasonably have known that third parties would suffer loss as a result.


As a civil law action, the use of misfeasance of public office has grown in recent years, the law having been clarified in the litigation involving the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. The ruling clarified that there are two types of misfeasance in public office. One known as "targeted malice" occurs when a public officer intentionally abuses his or her position with the motive of inflicting damage upon the claimant. The second is termed "untargeted malice", this is committed by a public official who acts knowing that he has no power to do the act complained of.[2]


Its most recent high-profile use was in the largest class action ever brought in the English courts, when 49,500 private shareholders of Britain's national railway infrastructure company Railtrack sued the Secretary of State for Transport for damages, alleging that in October 2001 the then holder of that office - Stephen Byers MP - had acted unlawfully in planning to put their company into administration on the grounds that it was insolvent. The legal action failed because - as an action involving reflective loss - the shareholders had to prove - in addition to the grounds specified above - malice on the part of Byers. They did not have the evidence to do so.

See also

  • Administrative liability in English Law


  1. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/2918771/The-300-year-old-beginnings-of-Byers-day-in-court.html
  2. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/2918771/The-300-year-old-beginnings-of-Byers-day-in-court.html

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • misfeasance — mis·fea·sance /mis fēz əns/ n [Anglo French misfesance, from Middle French mesfaire to do wrong, from mes wrongly + faire to make, do, from Latin facere]: the performance of a lawful action in an illegal or improper manner; specif: the… …   Law dictionary

  • office — of·fice n 1: a special duty, charge, or position conferred by governmental authority and for a public purpose qualified to hold public office; broadly: a special duty or position of authority hold an office of trust 2: a place where business or… …   Law dictionary

  • Malfeasance in office — Criminal law Part o …   Wikipedia

  • misfeasance in office — The performance by a public officer in his official capacity of a legal act in an improper or illegal manner. State ex rel. Hardie v Coleman, 115 Fla 119, 155 So 129, 92 ALR 988. A common law offense, generally termed official misconduct, and… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • Freeman-Maloy v. Marsden — revolves around a plaintiff, York University student Daniel Freeman Maloy, who held two protests at York University regarding the Israeli Palestinian conflict, disrupting classes. In response Lorna Marsden, President of York University, suspended …   Wikipedia

  • Stephen Byers — Infobox MP honorific prefix = The Right Honourable name = Stephen Byers honorific suffix =MP constituency MP = Tyneside North Wallsend (1992 1997) parliament = majority = 15,037 (40.7%) predecessor = Ted Garrett successor = Incumbent term start …   Wikipedia

  • Bolam v. Friern Hospital Management Committee — Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee ( [1957] 1 WLR 583) is an English tort law case that lays down the typical rule for assessing the appropriate standard of reasonable care in negligence: the Bolam test . Where the defendant has… …   Wikipedia

  • Peerage law — The British Peerage is governed by a body of law that has developed over several centuries. Precedents established by several important cases form most of this body of law. Several of the more significant cases will be addressed below.Peerage… …   Wikipedia

  • Railtrack — Infobox Defunct Company company name = Railtrack company fate = railway administration successor = Network Rail foundation = 1994 defunct = 2002 location = United Kingdom industry = rail transport key people = products = num employees = parent =… …   Wikipedia

  • Monarchy of Canada — This article is about the monarchy of Canada. For information on the other countries which share the same person as monarch, see Commonwealth realm. For the current Queen of Canada, see Elizabeth II. Not to be confused with Monarchism in Canada.… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”