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Related to malfeasance: misfeasance


The commission of an act that is unequivocally illegal or completely wrongful.

Malfeasance is a comprehensive term used in both civil and Criminal Law to describe any act that is wrongful. It is not a distinct crime or tort, but may be used generally to describe any act that is criminal or that is wrongful and gives rise to, or somehow contributes to, the injury of another person.

Malfeasance is an affirmative act that is illegal or wrongful. In tort law it is distinct from misfeasance, which is an act that is not illegal but is improperly performed. It is also distinct from Nonfeasance, which is a failure to act that results in injury.

The distinctions between malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance have little effect on tort law. Whether a claim of injury is for one or the other, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care, that the duty was breached in some way, and that the breach caused injury to the plaintiff. One exception is that under the law of Strict Liability, the plaintiff need not show the absence of due care. The law of strict liability usually is applied to Product Liability cases, where a manufacturer can be held liable for harm done by a product that was harmful when it was placed on the market. In such cases the plaintiff need not show any actual malfeasance on the part of the manufacturer. A mistake is enough to create liability because the law implies that for the sake of public safety, a manufacturer warrants a product's safety when it offers the product for sale.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


n. intentionally doing something either legally or morally wrong which one had no right to do. It always involves dishonesty, illegality, or knowingly exceeding authority for improper reasons. Malfeasance is distinguished from "misfeasance," which is committing a wrong or error by mistake, negligence or inadvertence, but not by intentional wrongdoing. Example: a city manager putting his indigent cousin on the city payroll at a wage the manager knows is above that allowed and/or letting him file false time cards is malfeasance; putting his able cousin on the payroll which, unknown to him, is a violation of an anti-nepotism statute is misfeasance. This distinction can apply to corporate officers, public officials, trustees, and others cloaked with responsibility. (See: misfeasance)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


the doing of a wrongful or illegal act, especially by a public official.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

MALFEASANCE, contracts, torts. The unjust performance of some act which the party had no right, or which he had contracted not to do. It differs from misfeasance, (q.v.) and nonfeasance. (q.v.) Vide 1 Chit. Pr. 9; 1 Chit. Pl. 134.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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