This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
The bankrupt act of 1898 excepts from the operation of the discharge judgments in actions for wilful and malicious injury to the person or property of another.1 The term "wilful" in the statute means intentional.2 The term "malice" does not involve actual hatred or ill-will, but it means the doing of a wrongful act without just cause or excuse.3 We do not think the language used was intended to limit the exception in any such way. It was an honest debtor and not a malicious wrongdoer that was to be discharged.4
1 Friend v. Talcott, 228 U. S. 27, 57 L. ed. 718; Clarke v. Rogers, 228 U. 8. 534, 57 L. ed. 953.
2 See Sec. 3131.
1 Woehrle v. Canclini, 158 Cal. 107, 109 Pac. 888; Covington v. Rosen-busch, 148 Ga. 459, 97 S. E. 78; Mason v. Perkins, 180 Mo. 702, 103 Am. St. Rep. 591, 79 S. W. 683; Ex parte Cote, - Vt. -, 106 Atl. 519.
See also, though not a bankruptcy case, Wellman v. Mead, - Vt. - 107 Atl. 396.
2 Ex parte Cote, - Vt. -, 106 Atl. 519.
3 Ex parte Cote, - Vt. -, 106 Atl. 519.
"In order to come within that meaning as a judgment for a wilful and malicious* injury to person or property, it is not necessary that the cause of action be based upon special malice, so that without it the action could not be maintained. * * * A wilful disregard of what one knows to be his duty, an act which is against good morals and wrongful in and of itself, and which necessarily causes injury and is done intentionally, may be said to be done wilfully and maliciously, so as to come within the exception. It is urged that the malice referred to in the exception is malice towards the individual personally, such as is meant, for instance, in a statute for maliciously injuring or destroying property, or for malicious mischief, where mere intentional injury without special malice towards the individual has been held by some courts not to be sufficient. Commonwealth v. Williams, 110 Mass. 401. We are not inclined to place such a narrow construction upon the language of the exception."
If the liability in tort has not been reduced to judgment, it is not barred by a discharge in bankruptcy, whether the injury is wilful and malicious or not.5 This result, however, is reached because such a claim is not a provable debt,6 and not because it was a special statutory exception to the provable debts which are barred by a discharge irk bankruptcy.