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What is Malice?

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  • Legalbear
    In Bromage v. Prosser, 4 Barn. & Cres. 247, which was
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 21, 2012
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      In Bromage v. Prosser, 4 Barn. & Cres. 247, which was an action of slander, Mr. Justice Bayley, among other things, said:


      "Malice, in common acceptation, means ill will against a 486*486 person, but in its legal sense it means a wrongful act, done intentionally, without just cause or excuse. If I give a perfect stranger a blow likely to produce death, I do it of malice, because I do it intentionally and without just cause or excuse. If I maim cattle, without knowing whose they are, if I poison a fishery, without knowing the owner, I do it of malice, because it is a wrongful act, and done intentionally. If I am arraigned of felony, and willfully stand mute, I am said to do it of malice, because it is intentional and without just cause or excuse. And if I traduce a man, whether I know him or not and whether I intend to do him an injury or not, I apprehend the law considers it as done of malice, because it is wrongful and intentional. It equally works an injury, whether I meant to produce an injury or not. . . ."


      We cite the case as a good definition of the legal meaning of the word malice. The law will, as we think, imply that degree of malice in an act of the nature under consideration, which is sufficient to bring it within the exception mentioned.


      `Malice,' in law, simply means a depraved inclination on the part of a person to disregard the rights of others, which intent is manifested 487*487 by his injurious acts. While it may be true that in his unlawful act Freche was not actuated by hatred or revenge or passion towards the plaintiff, nevertheless, if he acted wantonly against what any man of reasonable intelligence must have known to be contrary to his duty, and purposely prejudicial and injurious to another, the law will imply malice."


      Tinker v. Colwell, 193 US 473, 485-7 - Supreme Court 1904



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