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What Does "Mala Fides" Mean?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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Mala fides is a Latin term typically translated as “bad faith” and essentially means that someone is acting in a way that is deceptive or with ill-will. Someone acting in bad faith can be involved with various aspects of different crimes, and the term is often used with regard to a person either buying or selling stolen goods. Selling in bad faith means a person is aware the goods he or she is selling are stolen or were illegally gained, while buying in “mala fides” indicates the purchaser is aware of the illegal nature of the goods.

The term “mala fides” is used in a number of different contexts, including philosophical and religious discussions, but in law typically refers to the intent of an act. Someone acting in mala fides is acting with ill-will or purposeful deception, and is often said to be acting in bad faith. This can mean that a person has no intention of holding up to his or her side of an agreement, or is misrepresenting a service or product that is being offered to another person.

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A mala fides or bad faith insurance charge, for example, typically stems from an incident in which insurance payment is denied to a person who has a rightful claim. This usually occurs when an insurance company changes the terms of an agreement after it is made, or rules that a claim was not supported when it should have otherwise been paid out. Such charges, if proven, often result in both real and punitive damages ordered by a court to be paid by the insurance company to the plaintiff.

Mala fides can also be used to refer to individuals involved in a business arrangement, such as the sale of goods or services. Someone who is selling stolen goods is often said to be acting in bad faith or with malice. A mala fide buyer is a person who is aware that the goods that he or she is purchasing have been obtained illegally, which may make him or her liable for criminal charges. On the other hand, a bona fide buyer is someone who is unaware of the illegal nature of goods that he or she is purchasing.

Someone can also act with mala fides when offering a product in a way that he or she knows is misleading or untrue. If someone is selling a product that he or she claims can perform a certain task, while knowing it cannot, then he or she is acting in bad faith. The actions involved in fraud or a confidence game are typically considered to be in mala fides as well.

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