The expressions misfeasance and nonfeasance, and occasionally malfeasance, are used in English law with reference to the discharge of public obligations existing by common law, custom or statute.

Definition and relevant rules of law

Misfeasance is determined in relation to privity of contract. When a contract creates a duty that does not exist at common law, the parties can do one of three things: (1) perform the duty fully; (2) perform the duty inadequately or poorly; or (3) fail to perform the duty at all. When a party fails to perform at all, it is nonfeasance. When a party performs the duty inadequately or poorly, it is misfeasance. "Malfeasance" is used to denote outright sabotage which causes intentional damage.

Example: A company hires a catering company to provide drinks and food for a retirement party. If the catering company doesn't show up, it's considered nonfeasance. If the catering company shows up but only provides drinks (and not the food, which was also paid for), it's considered misfeasance. If the catering company accepts a bribe from a competitor to undercook meat and give those present food poisoning, it's considered "malfeasance".

The rule of law laid down is that no action lies for nonfeasance, for failure or refusal to perform the obligation, but that an action does lie for misfeasance or malfeasance, for negligently and improperly performing the obligation. The doctrine was formerly applied to certain callings carried on publicly (see R. "v." Kilderby, 1669, 1 Will. Saund. 311, 312 c).

At present the terms misfeasance and nonfeasance are most often used with reference to the conduct of municipal authorities with reference to the discharge of their statutory obligations; and it is an established rule that an action lies in favour of persons injured by misfeasance, "i.e." by negligence in discharge of the duty; but that in the case of nonfeasance the remedy is not by action but by indictment or "mandamus" or by the particular procedure prescribed by the statutes.

This rule is fully established in the case of failure to repair public highways; but in other cases the courts are astute to find evidence of carelessness in the discharge of public duties and on that basis to award damages to individuals who have suffered thereby.

Misfeasance is also used with reference to the conduct of directors and officers of joint-stock companies. The word malfeasance is sometimes used as equivalent to "mala praxis" by a medical practitioner.

ee also

* Malfeasance in office


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • malfeasance — mal·fea·sance /ˌmal fēz əns/ n [mal bad + obsolete English feasance doing, execution, from Old French faisance, from fais , stem of faire to make, do, from Latin facere]: the commission (as by a public official) of a wrongful or unlawful act… …   Law dictionary

  • malfeasance — mal‧feas‧ance [mælˈfiːzns] noun [uncountable] formal especially AmE LAW illegal activity: • The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners teaches accountants how to detect financial malfeasance. * * * malfeasance UK US /mælˈfiːz …   Financial and business terms

  • Malfeasance — Mal*fea sance, n. [F. malfaisance, fr. malfaisant injurious, doing ill; mal ill, evil + faisant doing, p. pr. of faire to do. See {Malice}, {Feasible}, and cf. {Maleficence}.] (Law) The doing of an act which a person ought not to do; evil… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • malfeasance — 1690s, from Fr. malfaisance wrongdoing, from malfaisant, from mal badly (see MAL (Cf. mal )) + faisant, prp. of faire to do, from L. facere to do (see FACTITIOUS (Cf. factitious)). M …   Etymology dictionary

  • malfeasance — [mal fē′zəns] n. [obs. Fr malfaisance < malfaisant < mal, evil (see MAL ) + faisant, prp. of faire < L facere, to DO1] wrongdoing or misconduct, esp. by a public official; commission of an act that is positively unlawful: distinguished… …   English World dictionary

  • Malfeasance — Used in regards to performance on a contract, malfeasance is an act of outright sabotage in which one party to the contract commits an act which causes intentional damage. A party that incurs damages by malfeasance is entitled to settlement… …   Investment dictionary

  • malfeasance — /mælˈfizəns/ (say mal feezuhns) noun Law the doing of an unlawful act, as a trespass: *the murder, mayhem, mime and malfeasance that follows on the heels of war or preparation for war. –sutton woodfield, 1960. Compare misfeasance, nonfeasance.… …   Australian English dictionary

  • malfeasance — /maelfiyzan(t)s/ Evil doing; ill conduct. The commission of some act which is positively unlawful; the doing of an act which is wholly wrongful and unlawful; the doing of an act which person ought not to do at all or the unjust performance of… …   Black's law dictionary

  • malfeasance — noun Etymology: mal + obsolete feasance doing, execution Date: 1696 wrongdoing or misconduct especially by a public official …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • malfeasance — malfeasant, adj., n. /mal fee zeuhns/, n. Law. the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used esp. of an act in violation of a public trust). Cf. misfeasance (def. 2),… …   Universalium

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