It means the “Improper performance of some lawful act.” Misfeasance means carrying out legal and improper action, but it is done in such a way that it harms others or causes injury to other people. Sometimes an act of a person causes harm to other people unintentionally. While all these actions are often mistakes committed by a person, there can be legal consequences for such mistakes. Attached to those mistakes, misfeasance is the legal term used for an act that is not illegal but performed in such a way that it harms another individual. There are certain situations in which a person has to perform a duty in the manner prescribed but the person fails to perform duty in a particular manner then it will be an act of misfeasance. Generally, defendants are held liable as the defendant has a duty of care towards the plaintiff but did not perform the duty properly. In Calveley v. Chief Constable of the Merseyside Police, it was held that for the tort of misfeasance it was necessary that the public officer must have acted maliciously or in bad faith. In the case of Dunlop v. Woollahra Municipal Council, it was held that without malice the claim for misfeasance could not be accepted.
For example, if a doctor operates by using rusted tools or leaves an alien object in the stomach during the procedure. Generally, a civil defendant will be liable for misfeasance as the defendant owes a duty of care towards the plaintiff and did not perform his duty properly, doing an operation is a lawful act but there is an improper performance of the lawful act.
Another example, a janitor is cleaning a restroom in a restaurant and is irresponsible and leaves the floor wet without any warning sign or board. In such a case, he or his employer could be held liable for any injury caused because of the wet floor. This is because the janitor owed a duty of care toward users of the restroom, and he breached that duty by leaving the floor wet and therefore would be held liable. It will come under misfeasance as the act was lawful but there was an improper performance of the lawful act.
In the case of Jasbir Kaur vs the state of Punjab, a newborn baby was missing in the hospital, and the staff of the hospital was not aware of it. After searching a lot, the newborn child was found dead in the washroom and his one eye was squeezed out. The hospital was held liable as there was negligence on the hospital’s part in performing the act properly. It was misfeasance as the hospital was negligent and there was the improper performance of the lawful act.
Misfeasance refers to a perpetrator purposefully not fulfilling the duties of their contract, but it more often occurs when the negligence is done unknowingly. Typically, an act of misfeasance isn’t done out of intent to harm but more likely to create a shortcut. Management may do this believing the action will help the company even though it could result in negative consequences in the future.
An example of misfeasance could include a public official hiring his or her sister without realizing that it would be against the law to hire a family member. Another example of misfeasance would be if a catering company is contracted to provide both food and drinks for a wedding, yet only provides drinks and forgets the food, which was already paid for.
In theory, misfeasance differs from nonfeasance, which refers to a failure to act that results in harm to another party. Misfeasance, by contrast, describes some affirmative acts that, though legal, cause harm. In practice, the distinction is confusing, and courts often have difficulty determining whether harm resulted from a failure to act or from an act that was improperly performed.
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