Quasidelicts in Ancient Roman Law

Богдан Петрович Карнаух


In ancient Roman law four sources of obligations were recognized, namely: contract, quasicontract, delict and quasidelict. The article addresses quasidelict as a source which gives rise to the obligation. Especially the author tries to find out the historical reasons for erecting the special class of quasidelicts. In this context the author focuses on the discussion over the following question: what distinguishes the quasidelicts from ordinary delicts (torts)? In other words, why did Romans hesitate to qualify some particular cases as delicts (torts) and instead called them «quasidelicts»?

The author analyses in detail the liability of the defendant in each of the cases, which Romans qualified as quasidelicts. In particular, the following cases are contemplated: judge’s offence; when something was thrown or poured onto a public place; when something was suspended or placed in a way as to pose a danger to passers-by; and case of liability for damage inflicted to passengers of a ship, guests of hotel or inn.

The conclusion is reached that quasidelict is a concept to denominate something which resembles delict (tort) but strictly speaking does not constitute a delict due to lack of one or more delict’s essential features. Usually the lacking feature is blameworthiness (or fault) of the defendant.


obligation; types of obligations; delict (tort); quasidelict; Roman law


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