Plaintiff: The Wrongdoer

When the plaintiff himself or herself committed an illegal or wrong act, or even negligent about his or her due care, the law excuses the defendant. The Latin proverb "ex turpi causa non oritur action" (no action proceeds from an immoral cause) is the source of this defense. Therefore, a plaintiff's own illegal act could result in a strong defense in tort cases. In addition to tort law, this maxim also applies to the contract, restitution, property, and trusts.

According to Pollock, when the plaintiff is a wrongdoer, he is not disabled from recovering in tort unless some unlawful act or conduct on his part is connected with harm suffered by him as part of the same transaction.

Meaning of Plaintiff, the wrongdoer

This maxim stands for the principle that a person cannot bring legal action because of their own wrongdoing. Defendants frequently use it as a defense in tort cases where the plaintiff's claim is based on illegal, immoral, or contrary to public policy conduct. As a result, an unlawful act committed by the plaintiff may result in a valid defense in torts.

This maxim applies not only to tort law, but also to contract law, restitution law, property law, and trust law. When the maxim is successfully applied, it serves as a complete impediment to recovery. It is commonly referred to as the illegality defense, but it extends beyond illegal behavior to immoral behavior. This defense, though rarely used, has been debated for a long time.

The legal maxims "jus ex injuria non oritur" (no right can arise from wrong) and "Commodum Ex Injuria Sua Nemo Habere Debet" (a wrongdoer should not be permitted by law to take any advantage from his actions) can be closely related to this 'ex turpi causa' defense. The phrase that one must approach the courts with clean hands is one we have all heard. The defense of illegality is closely related to this idea and relies on the idea that when someone commits a wrong, the state shouldn't assist them in recovering damages because doing so would essentially go against public policy.

Applicability of the Principle

When the plaintiff's claim is the result of an illegal or immoral act, the "ex turpi causa non oritur actio" rule is applicable. The guiding principle is founded on the idea that a plaintiff who has been harmed as a result of their own unlawful or immoral actions shouldn't be compensated by the court because doing so would be interpreted as endorsing or encouraging unlawful behavior.

Reasons for adopting the principle

The principle of "ex turpi causa non oritur actio" was developed in English common law in the 17th century. The principle arose in response to widespread deception and fraud at the time. Individuals who committed illegal or immoral acts were barred by the courts from profiting from their actions. The principle was also intended to discourage people from engaging in illegal or immoral behavior by denying them a remedy if their actions caused them harm. The principle was viewed as a means of promoting social order and preserving the integrity of the legal system.


  • The plaintiff placed electric wires along his property boundaries as a deterrent to trespassers. He did not, however, make a public announcement about it. A person tries to break into his home and is injured by the electrical wiring. In such a case, the plaintiff, the wrongdoer's defense can be asserted, as the plaintiff, in this case, failed to provide notice of the electric wiring and used unreasonable force to protect his land.

  • Let us consider another situation in which Aabridge under the defendant's control collapses due to the passage of the plaintiff's overloaded truck through it. The bridge's condition was indicated by a warning sign. As a result, despite knowing the bridge's condition, the plaintiff allowed his overloaded truck to pass through it.

In the example above, two scenarios are possible. The first is when the plaintiff is the wrongdoer. Second when the defendant is the wrongdoer.

In the above example, if the bridge was so poorly maintained that it would have collapsed even if the truck had been loaded properly, the plaintiff's action would be successful. However, if the defendant was the wrongdoer and their wrongful act was the determining cause of the accident and not the plaintiff, the defendant would not be liable. The defender cannot claim that the plaintiff is a wrongdoer if the plaintiff's wrongdoing is a separate act from the harm that was done to him.

Under this defense, it must be determined what is the link between the plaintiff's wrongful act and the harm he has suffered. He has no cause of action if his own act is the determining cause of the harm he has suffered.


"Ex turpi causa non oritur actio" is a fundamental principle tort law that forbids people from profiting from their wrongdoing after they have committed illegal or immoral acts. The principle serves as a deterrent to people who may be tempted to engage in illegal or immoral behavior by depriving them of a remedy if they suffer harm as a result of their conduct. The principle promotes social order and the fairness of the legal system by preventing people from profiting from their unethical behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1.What does plaintiff the wrongdoer mean?

Ans. If the plaintiff is involved in the wrongful act or conduct, he cannot recover damages.

Q2. Which principle is the plaintiff the wrongdoer based on?

Ans. It is based on the principle of "Ex turpi causa non oritur actio".

Q3. What does the principle "Ex turpi causa non oritur actio" means?

Ans. It means that no action is empowered by an immoral cause. As a result, an illegal act committed by the plaintiff cannot be used as a legal defense in Torts.

Q4. When is the principle "Ex turpi causa non oritur actio" applicable?

Ans. The "ex turpi causa non oritur actio" principle is applicable when the plaintiff's claim is the result of an unlawful or immoral act.

Updated on: 10-May-2023


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