Abatement (derived through the French abattre, from the Late Latin battere, to beat), a beating down or diminishing or doing away with; a term used especially in various legal phrases.
Abatement of a nuisance is the remedy allowed by law to a person or public authority injured by a public nuisance of destroying or removing it, provided no breach of the peace is committed in doing so. In the case of private nuisances abatement is also allowed provided there be no breach of the peace, and no damage be occasioned beyond what the removal of the nuisance requires.
Abatement of freehold takes place where, after the death of the person last seised, a stranger enters upon lands before the entry of the heir or devisee, and keeps the latter out of possession. It differs from intrusion, which is a similar entry by a stranger on the death of a tenant for life, to the prejudice of the reversioner, or remainder man; and from disseisin, which is the forcible or fraudulent expulsion of a person seised of the freehold.
Abatement of debts and legacies: When the equitable assets of a deceased person are not sufficient to satisfy fully all the creditors, their debts must abate proportionately, and they must accept a dividend. Also, in the case of legacies when the funds or assets out of which they are payable are not sufficient to pay them in full, the legacies abate in proportion, unless there is a priority given specially to any particular legacy. Annuities are also subject to the same rule as general legacies.
Abatement in pleading, or plea in abatement, was the defeating or quashing of a particular action by some matter of fact, such as a defect in form or the personal incompetency of the parties suing, pleaded by the defendant. It did not involve the merits of the cause, but left the right of action subsisting. In criminal proceedings a plea in abatement was at one time a common practice in answer to an indictment, and was set up for the purpose of defeating the indictment as framed, by alleging misnomer or other misdescription of the defendant. Its effect for this purpose was nullified by the Criminal Law Act 1826, which required the court to amend according to the truth, and the Criminal Procedure Act 1851, which rendered description of the defendant unnecessary. All pleas in abatement are now abolished (R.S.G. Order 21, r. 20).
Abatement in litigation: In civil proceedings, no action abates by reason of the marriage, death or bankruptcy of any of the parties, if the cause of action survives or continues, and does not become defective by the assignment, creation or devolution of any estate or title pendente lite (R.S.C. Order 17, r. 1). Criminal proceedings do not abate on the death of the prosecutor, being in theory instituted by the crown, but the crown itself may bring about their termination without any decision on the merits and without the assent of the prosecutor.
Abatement of false lights: By the Merchant Shipping Act 1854, the general lighthouse authority has power to order the extinguishment or screening of any light which may be mistaken for a light proceeding from a lighthouse.
Abatement in commerce is a deduction sometimes made at a custom-house from the fixed duties on certain kinds of goods, on account of damage or loss sustained in warehouses. The rate and conditions of such deductions are regulated, in England, by the Customs Consolidation Act 1853. (See also DRAWBACK; REBATE.)
Abatement in heraldry is a badge in coat-armour, indicating some kind of degradation or dishonour. It is called also rebatement.