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What Does "Pro Tanto" Mean?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2014
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The Latin phrase pro tanto is often translated as “as much as is able,” referring to partial fulfillment of a requirement by someone who cannot completely meet the obligation. In a legal sense, it commonly comes up in the context of partially paid claims, where a judge orders someone to pay as much as possible to satisfy the terms of a settlement. The government also commonly provides pro tanto payments in eminent domain cases.

When a judge is preparing a judgment in a case where the ruling goes in favor of the plaintiff, the judge can order the respondent to make payments pro tanto for a set period of time, such as a year. The respondent is required to pay as much of the damages as possible and to develop an appropriate payment plan for handling the damages. People who can pay damages in full are not allowed to make partial payments, as they can satisfy the terms of the judgment without hardship.

In eminent domain cases, the government commonly offers a pro tanto payment to compensate people after their land is seized for public use. People can choose to take the government to court, demanding more money on the grounds that the payment does not provide adequate compensation. Considerations in such cases include the inherent value of the property, as well as costs associated with relocation for the property owner.

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Partial payment of claims to satisfy judgments and court orders occurs in many regions of the world. When a judgment is entered against someone, it is important to read the documentation carefully and to bring up any issues with the court as soon as possible. People who know, for example, that they cannot afford the judgment as written should inform the court and request assistance with developing a payment plan and working out an agreement with the person who won the judgment.

When the phrasing in a judgment references pro tanto payments, people may want to consult an attorney to see what their options are, especially in cases where the government is making payments in eminent domain cases. Defendants in cases involving payment of damages can also make a counterclaim known as a pro tanto defense, requesting compensation from the plaintiff. Filing counterclaims is a common practice for people developing a defense to civil suits and usually requires an attorney so people can make sure the claim is filed effectively and appropriately.

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