Actio Personalis Moritur cum persona– it means that “a personal action dies with the person”. The principle denotes that the individual cause of action ends with the death of the petitioner or defendant. It can be said that a personal action does not survive on the death either of the person who committed the wrong or of the person to whom the wrong was committed.
However, some legal causes of action can be survived at the death of the claimant or plaintiff. For example- action founded in the contract law. If someone contracted with anyone for a lifetime and dies before completion of the contract, the contract will still survive upon the rest parties or the legal representatives. Similarly, some actions are personal to the plaintiff. Such as defamation of the character. Therefore, such an action where it relates to the private character of the plaintiff comes to an end on the death. Whereas, an action for the publication of a false and malicious statement, which causes damage to the plaintiff’s personal estate or assets, will survive to the benefit of his/her personal representative. The principle also exists to protect the estate and execution from liability for strictly personal acts of the deceased such as charges for fraud.
Hence, the underlying rule of the maxim applies to the cases of defamation, assault, and personal injuries. There are three exceptions to the maxim rule-
Contract: The cases arising under contract will not be affected by the death of any of the parties. In case M. Verappa v. Eveline, SC held that whether the suit will end or not on the death of the party depends on the nature of proceedings. If the proceeding relates to tortious action, it will end. Contrarily, if it relates to contractual action, it will not end.
Estate: If the wrongdoer has misappropriated the property of the petitioner, then the property could be recovered from the legal representative in the case of his death during the pendency of the suit.
Statutory exception: By enacting the Law Reform Act, 1934 in England, the effect of this maxim has been ended. It has been limited only to cause of defamation, the outrage of modesty, or adultery between husband and wife.
Hambly vs. Tratt (1776), this case is considered as one of the founding cases of this maxim. In this case, the defendant had misappropriated some sheep, goats, and pigs from the house of the plaintiff and later on died. It was held that the plaintiff was sought the return of his items from the deceased legal representative.
However, an action for trespass will not be governed by this maxim if it is against the character of a person.