Misfeasance in law refers to the improper performance of an act that a person may lawfully do, resulting in harm or damage. It involves legal action, but it’s done inappropriately, unlawfully, or negligently, leading to someone else’s detriment or injury. It’s not about committing an act that is outright illegal; instead, it is the incorrect or improper performance of a lawful act.
For instance, if a doctor performs a legal and standard medical procedure but does so negligently, leading to patient harm, this may be considered misfeasance. The act itself—performing the medical procedure—is lawful, but it was done improperly, which resulted in damage.
Misfeasance can be found in various fields of law, including tort law, corporate law, and public law, among others.
There is a connection between misfeasance and the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated.
When a case of misfeasance occurs, the injured party has a certain period in which to bring legal action against the person who committed the misfeasance. This time limit is defined by the statute of limitations, which can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific type of claim.
Once the statute of limitations period has expired, the claim may be barred, meaning it cannot be pursued in court.
Misfeasance vs. Malfeasance
Misfeasance and malfeasance are two distinct legal concepts, both dealing with improper actions but differing in the nature and intent of the wrongful act.
As mentioned before, misfeasance refers to the improper performance of an act that is legal and appropriate when done correctly. It’s about negligence or inadvertent error in doing something that is otherwise lawful, resulting in damage or harm to another party. Misfeasance is often characterized by carelessness rather than intentional harm. For example, a city worker who negligently repairs a public staircase, causing it to collapse and injure someone, could be guilty of misfeasance.
Malfeasance, on the other hand, refers to the act of committing an outright unlawful action. It involves intentional conduct that is illegal or wrongful. In contrast to misfeasance, malfeasance isn’t about doing a lawful act incorrectly; it’s about doing something that is inherently wrong or unlawful. For instance, a public official who accepts a bribe in exchange for political favors is committing malfeasance.
In essence, while both terms involve harm resulting from an action, the key difference lies in the nature of the act. Misfeasance involves incorrect or poor execution of a lawful act, whereas malfeasance refers to a wrongful or illegal act.
What Are Some Examples of Misfeasance and Malfeasance?
Misfeasance and malfeasance can occur in a variety of contexts. Here are some examples.
- Medical Misfeasance: This could occur when a doctor or other healthcare provider performs a procedure or treatment incorrectly, causing harm to the patient. For example, a surgeon who performs an operation using proper procedures but does so negligently, leading to post-operative complications, could be guilty of medical misfeasance.
- This is not about intentionally causing harm but about performing the duty improperly.
- Managerial Misfeasance: This could happen if a manager at a company is tasked with safety inspections but conducts them negligently, resulting in a preventable accident on the job. The act of inspecting safety measures is legal and expected, but in this case, it was done inappropriately.
- Traffic Misfeasance: This could occur if a driver, while obeying traffic laws such as staying within speed limits, negligently causes an accident due to distraction or inattention. This could be considered misfeasance as the act of driving is legal, but it was done in a negligent manner, leading to harm.
- School Misfeasance: An example might be a school that organizes a field trip but fails to ensure the safety of the children during the trip, leading to an injury. The act of organizing the trip is legal and a normal part of school operations, but the negligence in supervision could be considered misfeasance.
- Political Malfeasance: This could occur when a political figure abuses their power or position for personal gain, such as accepting bribes, engaging in corruption, or misusing public funds. The act itself is illegal.
- Professional Malfeasance: This could happen in a situation where a lawyer intentionally misrepresents facts in a case or a doctor prescribes unnecessary treatments to increase billings. The act itself is wrong and illegal.
How Does Misfeasance Affect a Case?
Misfeasance can have significant effects on both plaintiffs and defendants in a legal case.
For the Plaintiff:
If the plaintiff can prove that misfeasance occurred, they may be able to recover damages. Frequently, this involves showing that the defendant had a duty of care towards them, that they failed to properly perform this duty (i.e., committed misfeasance), and that this failure resulted in harm or damage.
In some cases, plaintiffs may be able to recover compensatory damages, which are designed to make them “whole” again by compensating for things like medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
In other cases, plaintiffs may be able to recover punitive damages, which are designed to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future. The availability and amount of damages can depend on various factors, including the specifics of the misfeasance and the jurisdiction where the case is heard.
For the Defendant:
Being accused of misfeasance can have serious repercussions for a defendant. If they’re found to have committed misfeasance, they could be held liable for damages, which can be significant. In addition to financial penalties, a finding of misfeasance can harm a defendant’s reputation, especially for professionals like doctors, lawyers, or public officials.
In cases where the defendant is a public official or employee, misfeasance can also lead to administrative consequences, such as disciplinary action or even removal from office. If the misfeasance involved criminal conduct, the defendant could also face criminal charges.
Defendants also have rights in these cases, though. They have the right to a defense and can challenge the plaintiff’s allegations. This could involve arguing that they did not commit misfeasance, that the plaintiff didn’t suffer any harm or damages, or that there’s some other reason they should not be held liable.
Seeking Legal Help
If you believe that you’ve been a victim of misfeasance and have suffered harm as a result, seek legal advice. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand your rights, guide you through the legal process, and advocate for your interests.
LegalMatch is a great resource to connect you with the right attorney for your case. LegalMatch has a vast directory of personal injury lawyers experienced in misfeasance cases. By entering your information and details about your case, you can get matched with lawyers who are qualified to assist you.
Do not delay in seeking legal help. Remember, statutes of limitations may apply, which put time restrictions on how long you have to file a lawsuit. The sooner you get in touch with a lawyer, the better your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.
Visit LegalMatch’s website today, tell us about your case, and get the legal help you need. You’re not alone in this process; LegalMatch is here to help.