Negligent Tort – committed by failure to observe the standard of care required by law under the circumstances

negligent tort:

1. A tort committed by failure to observe the standard of care required by law under the circumstances.  See NEGLIGENCE.

n. (14c.)

1. The failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation; any conduct that falls below the legal standard established to protect others against unreasonable risk of harm, except for conduct that is intentionally, wantonly, or willfully disregardful of another’s’ rights; the doing of what a reasonable & prudent person would not do under the particular circumstances, or the failure to do what such a person would do under the circumstances.  The elements necessary to recover damages for negligence are

1.) the existence of a duty on the part of the defendant to protect the plaintiff from the injury complained of
2.) an injury to the plaintiff from the defendant’s failure.

The term denotes culpable carelessness.  The Roman-law equivalents are culpa and neglegentia, as contrasted with dolus (wrongful intention). —  aka actionable negligence; ordinary negligence; simple negligence.

2. A tort grounded in this failure, usually expressed in terms of the following elements: duty , breach of duty, causation, & damages.” [1]

     Excerpt from Baron Patrick Devlin’s The Enforcement of Morals (1968):

     “Negligence in law ranges from inadvertence that is hardly more than accidental to sinful disregard of the safety of others.” [2]

    Excerpt from W. Page Keeton’s Prosser & Keeton on the Law of Torts (5th ed. 1984):

     “During the first half of the nineteenth century, negligence began to gain recognition as a separate & independent basis of tort liability.  Its rise coincided in a marked degree with the industrial Revolution; & it very probably was stimulated by the rapid increase in the number of accidents caused by industrial machinery, & in particular by the invention of railways.  It was greatly encouraged by the disintegration of the old forms of action, & the disappearance of the distinction between
direct & indirect injuries, found in trespass & case… Intentional injuries, whether direct or indirect, began to be grouped as a distinct field of liability, & negligence remained as a distinct field of liability, & negligence remained as the main basis for unintended torts. Negligence thus developed into the dominant cause of action for accidental injury in this nation today” [3]

     id. at 16973:

     “Negligence is a matter of risk — that is to say, of recognizable danger of injury….  In most instances, it is caused by heedlessness or inadvertence, by which the negligent party is unaware of the results which may follow from his act. But it may also arise where the negligent party has considered the possible consequences carefully, & has exercised his own best judgment. The almost universal use of the phrase ‘due care’ to describe conduct which is not negligent should not obscure the fact that the essence of negligence is not necessarily the absence of solicitude for those who may be adversely affected by one’s own actions but is instead behavior which should be recognized as involving unreasonable danger to others.” [4]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Baron Patrick Devlin, The Enforcement of Morals 36 (1968)

[3]: W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser & Keeton on the Law of Torts § 28, at 161 (5th ed. 1984)

[4]: id. at 16973


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