ACTUS DEI NEMINI FACIT INJURIAM

Actus Dei Nemini Facit Injuriam means “An act of god causes legal injury to no one”. In other words, no one is responsible when something (wrong) is done by God (nature). This denotes any damages caused by the unpredictable natural forces, will not be covered by the law. It means the law cannot hold anyone responsible for the act of God i.e. ‘force majeure’. Likewise, no one can complain against any act of God because such an act is inevitable. Even any legal action or demanding compensation against the act of God will not be entertained by the Court.

The act of God is used as a defence tool in cases of torts when the situation is beyond the power of the defendant and the damage is caused by the forces of nature. In such a case, the defendant will not be liable in tort law for such inadvertent damage. Two essential elements are required in the application of such a defence. Firstly, there must be the working of natural forces. Secondly, the occurrence must be extraordinary and beyond reasoning. And finally, it should be beyond the power of human beings.

In Ramalinga Nadar v. Narayana Reddiar (AIR 1971 Ker 197) the plaintiff had a contract with the defendant for transportation of goods. But the goods were looted by a mob which was beyond the control of the defendant. It was held that “every event beyond the control of the defendant cannot be said Act of God” and “the destructive acts of an unruly mob cannot be considered an act of God”. It was also settled in this case that acts that can be traced to natural forces and which have nothing to do with the intervention of human agency could be an aid to be acts of God.

Similarly, in Nicholas v. Marsland (1876) 2 EXD 1, the defendant had several artificial lakes on his land. Unprecedented rain which had never been witnessed caused the banks of the lakes to burst and the escaping water carried away the bridges belonging to the plaintiff. It was held that the plaintiff’s bridges were crashed by the act of God and the defendant was not liable.

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