Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Confusion Definition:

Civil law: grounds for extinguishing a contractual obligation when creditor and debtor become the same person.

Related Terms: Novation, Subrogation, Merger

Quebec's Civil Code, at §1671, states that confusion extinguishes an obligation.

At §1683:

"Where the qualities of creditor and debtor are united in the same person, confusion is effected, extinguishing the obligation. Nevertheless, in certain cases where confusion ceases to exist, the effects cease also."

Similarly, the 2009 version of the Civil Code of Louisiana, at §1903:

"When the qualities of obligee and obligor are united in the same person, the obligation is extinguished by confusion."

confusion equationLouisiana State University law professor Litvinoff weote, in his 2001 treatise:

"When the qualities of obligee and obligor are united in the same person, the obligation is extinguished by confusion. Indeed, an obligation is a legal relation whereby an obligor is bound to render a performance to an obligee. Since no one may be bound to render a performance to himself, when obligee and obligor are the same person the obligation no longer has a purpose and therefore comes to an end. Thus, confusion is one of the manners in which obligations are extinguished, and also a legal obstacle that makes obligation ineffective.

"Succession is, perhaps, the most frequent occurrence giving rise to confusion, as when the obligor inherits from the obligee the credit the latter had against him, or when the obligee inherits from the obligor the debt owed to him by the later.

"At common law, when the qualities of debtor and creditor are united in the same person the debt is extinguished by merger, which is, thus, the equivalent of confusion is the manner in which obligations are extinguished."

In officially translating their Civil Code for the purposes of the European Union, the French decided to translate confusion (which is used in the French version) with deference to the common law term merger, as follows at §1300 of the 209 edition of the Civil Code of France:

"Where the capacities of creditor and debtor are united in the same person, a merger is made as of right which extinguishes both claims."

An example of confusion is where A owes B $5,000. B dies and in his will, he makes A his only heir. The debt is extinguished as A is both debtor to the estate but also the estate itself, and therefore creditor,  as sole heir.

REFERENCES:

  • Civil Code, Statutes of Quebec 1991, Chapter 64
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Civil Law Dictionary
  • Litvinoff, Saúl, Louisiana Civil Law Treatise, Vol. 5, "Obligations" (New York: West Group, 2001), page 633-634

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