obligation,n.1. A legal or moral duty to do or not do something. • The word has many wide and varied meanings. It may refer to anything that a person is bound to do or forbear from doing, whether the duty is imposed by law, contract, promise, social relations, courtesy, kindness, or morality. 2. A formal, binding agreement or acknowledgment of a liability to pay a certain amount or to do a certain thing for a particular person or set of persons; esp., a duty arising by contract. — Also termed (in sense 2) civil obligation. See DUTY(1); LIABILITY(1). [Cases: Contracts 1.C.J.S. Contracts §§ 2–3, 9, 12.] 3.Civil law. A legal relationship in which one person, the obligor, is bound to render a performance in favor of another, the obligee. La. Civ. Code art. 1756.

“[I]n English-speaking countries an unfortunate habit has arisen of using ‘obligation’ in a lax manner as co-extensive with duties of every kind.” Frederick Pollock, A First Book of Jurisprudence 82 (1896).

“Obligation in its popular sense is merely a synonym for duty. Its legal sense, derived from Roman law, differs from this in several respects. In the first place, obligations are merely one class of duties, namely, those which are the correlatives of rights in personam. An obligation is the vinculum juris, or bond of legal necessity, which binds together two or more determinate individuals…. Secondly, the term obligatio is in law the name, not merely of the duty, but also of the correlative right. It denotes the legal relation or vinculum juris in its entirety, including the right of the one party, no less than the liability of the other. Looked at from the point of view of the person entitled, an obligation is a right; looked at from the point of view of the person bound, it is a duty…. An obligation, therefore, may be defined as a proprietary right in personam or a duty which corresponds to such a right.” John Salmond, Jurisprudence 460 (Glanville L. Williams ed., 10th ed. 1947).

“[I]n its more general acceptation, the word ‘obligation’ means something that the law or morals command a person to do, a command that is made effective by the imposition of a sanction if the person fails to obey or comply. When given that reference, the word ‘obligation’ is made synonymous with the word ‘duty.’ In that sense it is said, for example, that all citizens of a certain age are under an obligation to fulfill their military duties ….

“In another sense, the word ‘obligation’ means an instrument in writing, however informal, whereby one party contracts with another for the payment of a sum of money. In commercial law, for example, the word ‘obligation’ may mean a negotiable instrument ….“In the technical terminology of the civil codes, however, the word ‘obligation’ means a legal bond that binds two persons in such a way that one of them, the creditor or obligee, is entitled to demand from the other, the debtor or obligor, a certain performance.” Saul Litvinoff, 5 Louisiana Civil Law Treatise: The Law of Obligations 1–2 (2d ed. 2001).absolute obligation.An obligation requiring strict fulfillment according to the terms of the engagement, without any alternatives to the obligor. accessory obligation.An obligation that is incidental to another obligation. • For example, a mortgage to secure payment of a bond is an accessory obligation. The primary obligation is to pay the bond itself. Cf. primary obligation (1).

alternative obligation.An obligation that can be satisfied in at least two different ways, at the

choice of the obligor. — Also termed disjunctive obligation.

bifactoral obligation (bI-fak-t<<schwa>>r-<<schwa>>l). An obligation created by two parties.

civil obligation.See conventional obligation.

community obligation.A debt or other obligation incurred by either spouse after marriage in a community-property state. • Such an obligation is presumed to be an obligation of the community and not of the individual spouse.

conditional obligation.An obligation that depends on an uncertain event. [Cases: Contracts

218. C.J.S. Contracts §§ 355, 358.]

conjunctive obligation.An obligation composed of multiple performances that can be separately rendered or enforced; esp., an obligation in which several objects are connected by and (not or) or are in some other way clearly meant to be separately included in the contract. • For example, a loan agreement’s conjunctive obligation may require payment of four loan installments and delivery of a deed of trust. Each loan installment and the deed’s delivery is a separate, enforceable performance.

contractual obligation.An obligation arising from a contract or agreement.

conventional obligation.An obligation that results from agreement of the parties; a contractual obligation. Cf. obediential obligation. — Also termed express obligation; civil obligation.

correal obligation (kor-ee-<<schwa>>l or k<<schwa>>-ree-<<schwa>>l).Roman & civil law. A joint and several obligation.

“A correal obligation means a plurality of obligations based on a community of obligation: a joint liability in respect of the whole of the same debt or a joint right in respect of the whole of the same claim.” Rudolph Sohm, The Institutes: A Textbook of the History and System of Roman Private Law 361 (James Crawford Ledlie trans., 3d ed. 1907).

current obligation.An obligation that is presently enforceable, but not past due.

determinate obligation.An obligation that has a specific thing as its object. • For example, an obligation to deliver the 1491 Venice edition of Vocabularium Iuris that once belonged to H.L.A.

Hart can be discharged only by delivering the specified book. Cf. indeterminate obligation.

disjunctive obligation.See alternative obligation.

divisible obligation.An obligation that can be divided without the consent of the parties. • Either the performing party or the receiving party may unilaterally divide the obligation.

express obligation.See conventional obligation.

heritable obligation.An obligation that may be enforced by a successor of the creditor or

against a successor of the debtor. — Also termed inheritable obligation.

imperfect obligation.See moral obligation. implied obligation.See obediential obligation.

indeterminate obligation. 1. An obligation by which the obligor is bound to deliver one of a certain species of items. • For example, an obligation to deliver a pre-1509 edition of Vocabularium Iuris can be discharged by delivering any edition published before that date. 2. An obligation that is not specific in amount or form, or is subject to being changed by a third party. Cf. determinate obligation.

inheritable obligation.See heritable obligation.

joint obligation. 1. An obligation that binds two or more debtors to a single performance for one creditor. 2. An obligation that binds one debtor to a single performance for two or more creditors.

moral obligation.A duty that is based only on one’s conscience and that is not legally enforceable; an obligation with a purely moral basis, as opposed to a legal one. • In contract law, moral obligation may support a promise in the absence of traditional consideration, but only if the promisor has previously received some actual benefit from the promisee. — Also termed imperfect obligation; natural obligation. [Cases: Contracts 76. C.J.S. Contracts §§ 102, 127,


natural obligation. 1.Civil law. A moral duty that is not enforceable by judicial action. • Natural obligations are recognized in civil-law jurisdictions. While they are not enforceable by judicial action, something that has been performed under a natural obligation may not be reclaimed. For example, if an indigent patient in a hospital has no legal obligation to pay for the treatment but does so anyway, that person cannot later reclaim the payments voluntarily made. — Also termed obligatio naturalis. 2. See moral obligation.

obediential obligation (<<schwa>>-bee-dee-en-sh<<schwa>>l). An obligation imposed on a person because of a situation or relationship, such as an obligation of parents to care for their children. — Also termed implied obligation. Cf. conventional obligation.

perfect obligation.A legally enforceable obligation; one that is recognized and sanctioned by

positive law.

personal obligation. 1. An obligation performable only by the obligor, not by the obligor’s heirs or representatives. 2. An obligation in which the obligor is bound to perform without encumbering his or her property for its performance.

primary obligation. 1. An obligation that arises from the essential purpose of the transaction between the parties. Cf. accessory obligation. 2. A fundamental contractual term imposing a requirement on a contracting party from which other obligations may arise. — Also termed principal obligation.

primitive obligation.The obligation designated as the first to be satisfied. principal obligation.See primary obligation (2).

pure obligation.Scots law. An absolute obligation already due and immediately enforceable. — Also termed pure debt.

secondary obligation.A duty, promise, or undertaking that is incident to a primary obligation;

esp., a duty to make reparation upon a breach of contract. — Also termed accessory obligation. several obligation. 1. An obligation that binds two or more debtors to separate performances for one creditor. 2. An obligation that binds one debtor to separate performances for two or more creditors.

simple obligation.An obligation that does not depend on an outside event; an unconditional


single obligation.An obligation with no penalty attached for nonperformance, as when one

party simply promises to pay 20 dollars to another.

solidary obligation (sol-<<schwa>>-der-ee).Roman & civil law. An obligation that binds each of two or more debtors for the entire performance at the option of the creditor. • Solidary obligations are analogous to common-law joint and several obligations.

“A solidary obligation means the separate liability of several persons in respect of one and the same object. The normal case of a solidary obligation is a joint delict, as when two or more persons, acting jointly, do damage to property or commit a theft. So far as the obligation creates a duty to pay damages, it is solidary. Each of the co-delinquents is liable to make good the whole of the same damage.” Rudolph Sohm, The Institutes: A Textbook of the History and System of Roman Private Law 361–62 (James Crawford Ledlie trans., 3d ed. 1907).

statutory obligation.An obligation — whether to pay money, perform certain acts, or discharge duties — that is created by or arises out of a statute, rather than based on an independent contractual or legal relationship.

substitute obligation.Civil law. An obligation that takes the place of an extinguished

obligation by novation. See NOVATION.

unifactoral obligation (yoo-n<<schwa>>-fak-t<<schwa>>r-<<schwa>>l). An obligation

created by one party.

[Blacks Law 8th]