Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Falsa Demonstratio Non Nacet Definition:

A wrong description of an item in a legal document (such as a will) will not necessarily void the gift if it can be determined from other facts.

Used mostly in the interpretation of wills where a testator may have adequately desctribed an asset but in some way, applied an element of misdescription; eg. a typo of minor import. But in Latin for Lawyers, the author notes that:

"For the maxim to apply it must be possible to say which is the correct and which is the incorrect part of the description."

In Wong v Lee, the court adopted these words:

"The principle of falsa demonstratio non nocet means that if, on considering the language of a will with the aid of any admissible extrinsic evidence, the court comes to the conclusion that the testator intended to pass something and can determine what that something is, then the fact that the testator gave it a wrong description in his will does not prevent the will taking effect in regard to the subject matter intended by the testator. The principle may be applied in whatever part of the description the error occurred ...

"Thus, if T makes a specific gift of certain stock, and T at the date of his will possessed no such stock but possessed other stock which the court decides was meant, the latter stock passes under the gift despite the false description."

Osborne defines falsa demonstratio non nocet as follows:

"A false description does not vitiate a document.

"Thus if part of a description is true and part false, if the true part describes the subject matter with sufficient certainty, the untrue part will be rejected or ignored."

In Glenelg, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court adopted these words:

"Generally, full effect will be given to all terms of a description, whether general or specific. In some cases, one of the terms used may describe the property with certainty, for example, the metes and bounds description, and the rest add a description which is not true, for example, a wrong lot number. In such a case, the untrue portion will be rejected. This is the maxim, falsa demonstratio non nocet.

"Therefore, where a description of lands included the qualifying words 'known as the Cornish town reservation' and they were inaccurate, they were rejected as a falsa demonstratio.

"In (a case known as) Pitman v Henley, the vendor agreed to sell a field. In the deed, the field was described as being 4.5 acres, when in fact it was nine acres. The vendor later claimed that only 4.5 acres were conveyed. In finding that the whole field had been conveyed, the Court stated that the metes and bounds description which was accurate, governed, and the stated number of acres was rejected as a falsa demonstratio...."

The term was used judicially in the 1961 Supreme Court of Canada case, Société Coopérative Agricole du Canton de Granby.

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