Duhaime's Law Dictionary


In Pari Delicto Definition:

Latin: both parties are equally at fault.

Related Terms: Pari Delicto

Sometimes abbreviated to, simply, pari delicto.

In Perma Mufflers, Justice Black of the United Supreme Court wrote:

"... the Latin phrase in pari delicto ... literally means of equal fault."

Further, these words of Justice Selya of the United States Court of Appeals in Nisselson v Lernout:

"In pari delicto is both an affirmative defense and an equitable defense. Broadly speaking, the defense prohibits plaintiffs from recovering damages resulting from their own wrongdoing.

"The label derives from the Latin phrase in pari delicto potior est conditio possidentis, which admonishes that in a case of equal or mutual fault, the condition of the defending party is the better one.

"The doctrine is grounded on twin premises. The first is that courts should not lend their good offices to mediating disputes among wrongdoers. The second is that denying judicial relief to an admitted wrongdoer is an effective means of deterring illegality."

For example, if two parties complain to a judge of the non-performance of a contract by the other, the judge could refuse to provide a remedy to either of them because of in pari delicto: a finding that they were equally at fault in causing the contract's breach.

Typically, in pari delicto is presented as part of the following Latin maxims:

 • In pari delicto, potior est conditio defendentis.  In equal fault,  the condition of the defending party is better.
 • In pari delicto, potior est conditio possidentis.  In equal fault, the condition of the possessor is better (i.e. the law will not intervene).

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