culpable – guilty or at fault; often used in cases of breach of duty

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adj. (14c.)

1. Guilty; blameworthy.

2. Involving the breach of a duty. [1]

1. Criminal; censurable.  Where the term is applied to the omission of a person to preserve the means of enforcing his own rights, “censurable” is more nearly an equivalent. Waltham Bank v Wright, 90 Mass (8 Allen) 121, 122. [2]

1. Blameworthy; blamable; responsible; at fault. [3]

Related Terms

breach of duty – violation of a legal or moral obligation; especially, a fiduciary‘s violation of an obligation.

Various Types o Culpability:

culpable neglect – The neglect which exists where the loss or damage can fairly be ascribed to carelessness, improvidence, or folly.  Waltham Bank v Wright, 90 Mass (8 Allen) 121, 122.

Under ordinary circumstances, the failure of the creditor to discovery the death of his debtor is “culpable neglect” as a matter of law. Mulligan v Hilton, 305 Mass 5, 24 NE2d 676, 133 ALR 376. [2]

1. The type of neglect that exists when a loss or damage can be reasonably be attributed to one’s own carelessness. [3]

culpable negligence – 1. A term sometimes defined in a manner similar to definitions of ordinary negligence, it being said that “culpable negligence” is the omission to do something which a reasonable, prudent and honest man would do, or doing something which such a man would not do under all the circumstances surrounding each particular case. State v Emery, 78 Mo 77; Kent v State, 8 Okla Crim 188, 126 P 1040.

Other authorities consider “culpable negligence” as something beyond oordinary negligence, defining it as the conscious and wanton disregard of the probabilities of fatal consequences to others as the result of the wilful creation of an unreasonable risk thereof; or a wanton disregard of, or indifference to, the safety of human life. Smith v State, 197 Miss 802, 20 802d 701, 161 ALR 1.

The term, as used in workmen’s compensation acts excepting employees guilty of such negligence from the right to compensation, does not have the same meaning as the word “blamable,” but means practically the same as “wilful and serious misconduct” which in turn means improper conduct of a grave and aggravated character, either intentional misconduct, or misconduct of such a character as to evince a reckless disregard of consequences to the one who is guilty of it. Fuhs v Swenson, 58 Wyo 393, 131 P2d 333; 58 Am Jlst Workm Comp § 200.

In most of the jurisdictions the term, as used in a manslaughter statute, has been construed as meaning negligence of a higher degree than ordinary negligence which suffices as a basis for liability in a civil action. However, in a few jurisdictions the term has been construed as denoting merely ordinary negligence when used in such a statute. Anno: 161 ALR 10.
See negligent homicide. [2]

1. Both in the law of negligence and as used in criminal negligence and manslaughter statutes, a conscious and wanton disregard of the probability that death or injury will result from the willful creation of an unreasonable risk.
     See culpable homicide; gross negligence; negligent homicide. [3]

culpable homicide – 1. Negligent homicide.  2. Any type or degree of homicide for which a person is responsible other than murder. [3]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.


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