Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Et Impotentia Excusat Legem Definition:

The law excuses someone from doing the impossible.

Related Terms: Lex Non Cogit Ad Impossibilia

Also rendered lex non cogit ad impossibilia.

Herbert Broom, who prerred lex non cogit ad impossibilia to et impotentia excusat legem, calls this a "fundamental legal principle".

In Eager v Furnivall, Justice Jessell of the Chancery Division of the English Court had before him an estate case in which an impossible action was required to give effect to a seisin. The good judge set aside the requirement of the seison relying on et impotentia excusat legem.

Broom descibes the application of the principle in more detail:

"... that ... where the law creates a duty or charge and the party is disabled to perform it, without any default in him, and has no remedy over, the law will in general excuse him...."


  • Broom, Herbert, A Selection of Legal Maxims Classified and Illustrated, 10th Ed., (London: Sweet & Maxwell Limited, 1939), pages 162-168
  • Eager v Furnivall, 17 Ch. D. 115 (1881)

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