Vanderbilt Law Review


T. A. Smedley

First Page



One of the oft-sung glories of the English common law is the vitality of its many rules which evolved originally from ancient custom, usage, tradition and experience. This truly amazing vitality has the virtue of imbuing the law with stability, of providing legal sanction for established commercial practices, of protecting vested property interests, and of furnishing some measure of predictability of decisions. Unfortunately, it also serves to perpetuate the force of some rules far beyond the period of their usefulness and to maintain their influence after the reason for their existence has been long forgotten.'Such was the case in regard to two common law principles which for century after century prevented any recovery of damages for bodily injuries wrongfully inflicted on a person and resulting in his death. These principles, overlapping in their effect and often confused in their application, but not identical, are: (1) actio personals moritur cum persona--a personal action dies with the person (of plaintiff or defendant), and (2) the killing of a human being is not aground for an action for damages.