Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/139

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heir (as the case may be) of the tort-feasor, an action will, of course, lie to recover it back. Frequently, however, there will be no action at law which will be adapted to the circumstances of the case; and in all such cases it seems that equity ought to interfere by compelling a restoration to the person injured of any fruits of the tort which can be found in the possession of the representatives of the tort-feasor. This, however, is not entirely clear upon authority.[1]

It has been assumed hitherto that every tort consists in misfeasance. In fact, however, some torts consist in nonfeasance merely; for whenever the law imposes a duty upon a person, which does not amount technically to an obligation, any failure to perform that duty by which another person is injured (as it is not a breach of obligation) is a tort. It is generally true that a misfeasance is a tort, and a wrongful nonfeasance a breach of obligation; but the converse is also sometimes true; for, as a nonfeasance may be a tort, so a misfeasance may be a breach of obligation. There is, however, a broad distinction, in respect to equity jurisdiction, between misfeasance and nonfeasance; and this fact may suggest the propriety of dividing the jurisdiction over torts and contracts into cases of misfeasance and cases of nonfeasance. It certainly is not convenient to consider those torts which consist in nonfeasance, until those nonfeasances are considered which consist of breaches of contract; but neither is it convenient to consider those breaches of contract which consist in misfeasance until those breaches of contract which consist in nonfeasance are considered. Therefore, both classes of cases will be postponed until the jurisdiction over affirmative contracts is disposed of, i. e., those contracts the breaches of which consist in nonfeasances.

C. C. Langdell.

[To be continued.]

  1. See Bishop of Winchester v. Knight, 1 P. Wms. 406; Thomas v. Oakley, 18 Ves. 184., 186, per Lord Eldon; Pulteney v. Warren, 6 Ves. 72.