Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Inscrutable Fault Definition:

A judicial finding that a fault has occurred but the court is unable to locate the source, to pinpoint a tort-feasor.

A term well-used within maritime law and the concept of tort liability as a result of a collision.

In his 1839 American Law Dictionary, John Bouvier defines it as a collision:

"... by the fault of those in charge of one or both vessels and yet under such circumstances that it is impossible to determine who is in fault."

In The Law of Admiralty, jurists Gilmore and Black wrote:

"Inscrutable fault is said to exist when the Court can see that a fault has been committed, but is unable, from the conflict of testimony, or othewrwise, to locate it.

"The seemingly settled rule is that in such a case no one can recover anything."


  • Gilmore, G., and Black, C., The Law of Admiralty (New York: Foundation Press, 1975), page 486.
  • The Java 81 US 189 (1872)

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