Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Lex Non Cogit Ad Impossibilia Definition:

Latin: The law does not compel a man to do that which is impossible.

Related Terms: Et Impotentia Excusat Legem

Also rendered et impotentia excusat legem.

Herbert Broom calls this a "fundamental legal principle".

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...."

In Hughey v. JMS Development, Justice Owens of the United States Court of Appeals used these words:

"Lex non cogit ad impossibilia: The law does not compel the doing of impossibilities."

Or this:

"Lex non cogit ad impossibilia, the law requires nothing impossible."1

In 2012, Justice Frankel of the British Columbia Court of Appeal rendered the maxim as follows (in Transportaction Lease Systems Inc. v. Virdi):

"Lex non cogit ad impossibilia, i.e., the law does not compel a person to do that which he or she cannot possibly perform."


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