A legal maxim is a succinct, to-the-point term used in law and legal literature to denote the core tenet of any statute or rule of law. The term “Maxim” is a Latin origin word and has been derived from the word “Maxima”. Various European governments developed these legal maxims during the Middle Ages. Latin was the official language in these states. This explains why most of the legal maxims are written in the Latin language.


Actio Personalis moritur cum persona in literal terms means ‘A personal right of action dies with the person.’

  • Actio stands for ‘an act’ or ‘an action’
  • Personalis stands for ‘personal’
  • Moritur stands for ‘death’
  • Cum stands for ‘with’ 
  • Persona stands for ‘person’


To understand more about this maxim, we will have to look at the roots of the origin of this principle.

  • This maxim was recognized and discovered in the writings of a case that was heard in a court in Europe in 1496. A woman was found guilty of defamation in this case after a verdict was rendered against her. She passed away before she could make restitution for the harm she had caused the tortfeasor.


In the event that Mohit assaults Rohit. But if one of the parties dies in the course of the incident, Rohit loses the right to sue because of the battery. However, any third-party right of action that has accrued will not be impacted by Rohit’s death insofar as the maxim is concerned if Mohit assaults Rohit or causes him additional harm.

Thus, we now know that the main rule of this maxim is that all duties and remedies die with the person but defamation, attacking/ assaulting and personal damages are the three big exceptions of this legal maxim.


  • Legal Representatives Suits Act, 1855

According to this Act, the executors, administrators, or representatives of a deceased person may bring an action for any wrongdoing during the deceased’s lifetime that resulted in financial loss to the estate of that person.

  • Fatal Accidents Act, 1855

This Act gives the legal representative of a person whose death was brought about by the wrongdoing, negligence, or default of another the right to file a claim on behalf of the deceased’s wife, husband, or child.

  • Indian Succession Act, 1925

According to Section 306 of this Act, the executors or administrators of a deceased person continue to have all rights to pursue any actions that are pending in their favour.



  • The court remarked and declared that the personal action dies with the person in Girja Nandini Devi & Ors. v. Bijendra Narain Choudhury (1966), and when the legal maxim actio personalis moritur cum persona was used, it was held that this maxim shall have limited effect. It was made clear that because of the limited class of actions ex-delicto, or from a wrong that includes actions for damages against defamation, assault, or any other personal injuries that do not result in the death of any individual, this principle only applies to those cases. Ex-delicto actions are those where the granted relief cannot be enjoyed after the individual has passed away.

The Court also stated, “An action for the account is not an action for damages and it does not fall among the enumerated classes. Nor is it such that the relief claimed being personnel could not be enjoyed after death, or granting it would be nugatory.”


  • One of the early instances that established the maxim actio personalis moritur cum persona was Hambly v. Trott (1776). The defendant, in this case, passed away after stealing some farm animals from the plaintiff. The plaintiff subsequently tried to get those animals back from the deceased’s estate, but he was unable to do so since the court had established some guidelines for what constituted a valid claim against an estate. This was because trespass would be declared invalid. After all, it was committed against a person rather than property, making any action based on a contract successful.
  • In the 2016 case of Vatsala Srinivasan v. Shyamala Raghunathan, the court ruled that if a will’s executor passes away, this maxim will not apply to the probate processes that the executor must start prior to their passing. In such cases, if an executor neglects to perform his obligations, the will’s beneficiaries or anyone acting on the will’s behalf has the right to intervene and continue the procedures with an official modification prayer in the letters of administration with the will and the attachments.


To summarise, the maxim Actio personalis moritur cum persona means that, as we have discussed above through various case laws, the personal right to an action dies with the person. However, many courts have made it clear that, due to various factors cited by the courts in the aforementioned case laws, the literal meaning is different from its application, and that is why this maxim is considered unjust and unfair as a whole.



Written by Aman Rao

First-year B.Com. LL.B. (Hons)

The Jindal Global Law School



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