Legal Dictionary

in pari delicto

Legal Definition of in pari delicto


    Latin Term


  1. Both parties are equally at fault. Actually, the usual use of this phrase is "in pari delicto, potior est conditio possidentis" which means that where both parties in a dispute are equally at wrong, the person in possession of the contested property will retain it (i.e.. the law will not intervene).

See also

Definition of in pari delicto


    Latin in pari delicto potior est conditio defendentis: "if both (parties) are in the wrong, a defence is set up".


in pari delicto

  1. (law) In pari delicto describes a case in which involved parties are mutually or equally at fault. In such cases where a party's own conduct is mutually wrongful, that party may not claim damages or satisfaction from the other(s) in a court of law.

    "The 'clean hands doctrine', derived from English law, is similar in effect to the Roman law maxim in pari delicto potior est conditio defendentis, which operated as an absolute bar to the grant of relief to the plaintiff. The doctrine, also known as the par delictum rule, is concerned with the moral guilt of contracting parties, not their criminal liability.

Further reading

In pari delicto (potior/melior est conditio possidentis), Latin for "in equal fault (better is the condition of the possessor)" is a legal term used to indicate that two persons or entities are equally at fault, whether the malfeasance in question is a crime or tort.

The phrase is most commonly used by courts when relief is being denied to both parties in a civil action because of wrongdoing by both parties. The phrase means, in essence, that since both parties are equally at fault, the court will not involve itself in resolving one side's claim over the other, and whoever possesses whatever is in dispute may continue to do so in the absence of a superior claim. The doctrine is similar to the defense of unclean hands, both of which are equitable defenses. Comparative fault and contributory negligence are not the same as in pari delicto, though all of these doctrines have similar policy rationales.

The same principle can be applied when neither party is at fault if they have equal right to the disputed property, in which case the maxim of law becomes in aequali jure (melior est conditio possidentis). Again the court will not involve itself in the dispute without a superior claim being brought before it.


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1.     lex fori
2.     landed property
3.     lex situs
4.     respondent
5.     default judgment
6.     tort law
7.     living will
8.     lex causae
9.     law
10.     salacious