Damnum Fatale Law and Legal Definition

Damnum Fatale is a Latin term. It means ‘accidental damage.’ Under the Roman law, ‘damnum fatale’ referred to damage caused by an unavoidable circumstance. For example a damage caused by a natural calamity such as a storm or the damage caused due to an unavoidable situation such as a ship wreck. The bailees or others were not held liable in such cases. However, an exception was made for damages resulting from theft.

The following is an example of a case law referring to the term:

By the Roman law, an innkeeper was accountable for the value of property intrusted to his charge, though the loss occurred or the thing perished without his fault, unless it happened damno fatali or by the act of God. Under the term damnum fatale, the civilians included all those accidents which are summed up in the common law expressions "act of God," or "public enemies," though perhaps it embraced some which would not now be admitted as occurring from an irresistible force. [Thickstun v. Howard, 8 Blackf. 535, 536 (Ind. 1847)].