In personam is a Latin phrase meaning "against a particular person". In a lawsuit in which the case is against a specific individual, that person must be served with a summons and complaint to give the court jurisdiction to try the case, and the judgment applies to that person and is called an "in personam judgment".
|United States federal|
civil procedure doctrines
In personam is distinguished from in rem, which applies to property or "all the world" instead of a specific person. This technical distinction is important to determine where to file a lawsuit and how to serve a defendant. In personam means that a judgment can be enforceable against the person wherever he/she is. On the other hand, if the lawsuit is to determine title to property (in rem) then the action must be filed where the property exists and is only enforceable there.
- Black, Henry Campbell (1910). A Law Dictionary Containing Definitions of the Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern: And Including the Principal Terms of International, Constitutional, Ecclesiastical, and Commercial Law, and Medical Jurisprudence, with a Collection of Legal Maxims... (2 ed.). West Publishing Co. p. 606.