Debitum et contractus Sunt nullius loci

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Debitum et contractus Sunt nullius loci

Literal Meaning

Debt and contract belong to no particular place.

Explanation & Origin

Origin – Debitum et contractussunt nullius loci is a Latin phrase

Explanation – Debts and contracts incur a personal liability on the parties and therefore are not enforced with regards to the locality. The obligation in these cases is personal and actions to enforce it may be brought anywhere. Debitum et contractussunt nullius loci provides that there is no particular jurisdiction as a contract is a personal liability. Verbal contracts are for the purpose of jurisdiction nullius, or rather uniuscujusque loci.

Contracts and debts are transitory actions. Transitory action is an action that can be brought in any venue where the defendant can be personally served with the process.

The maxim finds its importance in the Law of Venue. If the residence of the defendant becomes the test of venue, it will materially affect the interests of the plaintiffs. For the convenience of commerce that the venue in all actions of contract should be transitory; debitum et contractussunt nullius loci, giving the defendant the power to change the venue and the plaintiff the right to bring it back again according to the discretion of the court. When the venue is local the defendant is tied down to a single defence.

The jurisdiction of the superior courts of law embraces all causes of action of a transitory nature, whether they may have arisen within the realm or abroad, and whether between subjects of this country or aliens. It is an ancient maxim of law that ‘debitum et contractussunt nullius loci’; and hence a contract between two foreigners made in their own country is triable anywhere.The merits are determinable according to the law of the country, in or with reference to which the contract was made, but the remedy or made of proceeding is governed by the laws of the Superior Court in which the action is brought.

Illustration

Lawsuits to recover damages in breach of contract or test actions can be brought anywhere.

In the United States the State and Federal Government are now private for profit corporations that are pretending to be “Public Trusts”.  These corporations are no longer tied to a territory or land mass. After the Civil War and enactment of the first federal income tax in 1862 and the corporatization of the U.S. Government in 1871, all States of the Union rewrote their constitutions to remove references to their territorial boundaries and became corporations with no territory. In a sense they divorced themselves from the land and became strictly a political entity. Everything they do is a consequence of a contract and consent, and contracts consist of franchise agreements and all franchises are subject to a contract. Thus, abiding by the principle laid down in “Debitum et contractus nom sunt nullius loci” – Debt and Contract are of no particular place.

Exception

In a case where action against trespass lies, the venue or jurisdiction of the court becomes local. Hence, such cases are not transitory in nature. Thus such cases cannot be tried anywhere unless the course of action arose within the jurisdiction of that court.

Case Reference

In the case of Fabrigas v.Mostyn [1], the plaintiff was a native Minorquanwho sought to bring an action in England for an alleged assault and false imprisonment on him in Minorca by the Governor of Minorca. The Court held that such an action could be brought in lieu with the above mentioned maxim.

In the case of White v. Sanborn[2], decided in the year 1833, the  court held that in general, actions founded upon contracts are transitory although made and even stipulated to be performed out of the State for debitum et contractussunt nullius loci. But when the action is founded upon privity of estate it is local and lies only in the place where the land is.

In the case of Molony v. Dows[3], the Court while refusing to take jurisdiction in an action for false imprisonment by a California refugee against an officer of the San Francisco Vigilance Committee, accepted the reason for recognizing the ubiquity of contract claims applied equally to claims for injuries to personal property; debitum et contractussunt nullius loci.

Edited by Vigneshwar Ramasubramania

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[1](1773) 20 St Tr 82, [1775] 1 Copp 161, [1775] 98 ER 1021.

[2] 6 N.H. 220

[3] 8 Abb. Pr. 316, 328 (N. Y. 1859)