legal fiction

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An assumption and acceptance of something as fact by a court, although it may not be, so as to allow a rule to operate or be applied in a manner that differs from its original purpose while leaving the letter of the law unchanged. A legal fiction is created typically to achieve such varied aims as convenience, consistency, equity, or justice.

For example, where a court cannot exercise in personam jurisdiction over a defendant, it can bring that defendant under its jurisdiction via quasi in rem subtype 2 jurisdiction. The latter is a form of personal jurisdiction that uses a defendant’s property to satisfy a claim against them, and is a legal fiction because it treats the owner of the property as a defendant although the subject of the suit is technically the property itself.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]