In jurisprudence, a natural person (also physical person in some Commonwealth countries, or natural entity) is a person (in legal meaning, i.e., one who has its own legal personality) that is an individual human being, distinguished from the broader category of a legal person, which may be a private (i.e., business entity or non-governmental organization) or public (i.e., government) organization. Historically, a human being was not necessarily considered a natural person in some jurisdictions where slavery existed (subject of a property right) rather than a person.
According to Maria Helena Diniz, an individual or natural person "is the human being considered as a subject of rights and obligations". Every human being is endowed with legal personality and, therefore, is a subject of law.
According to Sílvio de Salvo Venosa, "legal personality is a projection of the intimate, psychic personality of each person; it is a social projection of the psychic personality, with legal consequences". However, and in addition, the law also gives personality to other entities, formed by groups of people or assets: these are called legal person.
In many cases, fundamental human rights are implicitly granted only to natural persons. For example, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states a person cannot be denied the right to vote based on their sex, or Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees equality rights, apply to natural persons only. Another example of the distinction between natural and legal persons is that a natural person can hold public office, but a corporation cannot.
A corporation or non-governmental organization can, however, file a lawsuit or own property as a legal person.
In Germany, legal entities (Rechtssubjekt) such as natural persons (Natürliche Person) have the capacity to be bearers of rights and obligations; they possess legal capacity. The point in time at which this legal capacity begins and ends is disputed in German case law [de] and jurisprudence [de].
According to section 1 of the German Civil Code (BGB), a person acquires legal capacity on completion of their birth.: However, in certain conditions, fetuses also have certain legal rights, for example, that of becoming an heir.: The question of whether a fetus may have legal capacity as well has been left open by the Federal Court of Justice, although there are indications of a positive response. The German Civil Code grants the fetus, which does not have full legal capacity, essential rights, which are subject to the condition of subsequent live birth.: The question of whether the fetus can have rights before birth and possibly from the beginning of pregnancy, in particular a right to life, is highly controversial.[ citation needed]
- https://bdtcc.unipe.edu.br/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/artigo-thaise-1-1-1-1.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- VENOSA, Sílvio de Salvo. Direito Civil: Parte Geral. 5. ed. São Paulo: Atlas, 2005, p. 149.
- People v. Frazier, 173 Cal. App. 4th 613 (2009). In this case, the California Court of Appeal explained: "Despite the physical ability to commit vicious and violent acts, dogs do not possess the legal ability to commit crimes."
- "German Civil Code BGB". Translated by Langenscheidt Translation Service; Neil Mussett. Bonn: Bundesamt für Justiz. 2022.
- § 1: The legal capacity of a human being begins on the completion of birth.
- § 1923: Only a person who is alive at the time of the devolution of an inheritance may be an heir.
- Zeising, Michael: "Der Nasciturus im Zivilverfahren" [The fetus in civil proceedings] (2004) p. 18; with further sources. (in German)