Legal Word of the Day: “Misfeasance”

Employment and Labour

“Misfeasance”: Misfeasance is a common-law tort. It applies to acts that, while legal, are performed improperly, in a civil setting.

“Misfeasance in public office” is a related tort. To succeed in an action for misfeasance in public office, a plaintiff must show that the public office-holder defendant breached a duty of care, by improperly performing a legal act, and that the improper performance resulted in harm to the plaintiff.

This tort requires evidence that the public officer engaged in deliberate and unlawful conduct in his capacity as a public officer, and that the public officer was aware that his conduct was likely to harm the plaintiff.

In contrast, “nonfeasance” is the failure to take action, causing harm to the plaintiff.

Related cases and information:
  • Trillium Power Wind Corp. v. Ontario (Natural Resources), 2013 ONCA 683
    Trillium claimed the province unlawfully “deprived it of a lucrative offshore wind-powered electric generation project, for an improper political purpose” and intended to cripple the company financially so that it would not be able to fight its actions.
  • Roncarelli v. Duplessis, [1959] S.C.R. 121.
    Targeted malice was a factor, when the Quebec Premier interfered in a liquor licence.
  • Odhavji Estate v. Woodhouse, 2000 CanLII 17007 (ON CA), [2003] 3 S.C.R. 263
    The Court set out two categories of misfeasance: those with intent to injure a person or class of people; and those in which a public officer had no authority to act.
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