Main Content


VII. Negligence: Adjusting the Standard?

Although “reasonable care” may sound like a simple, straightforward standard, its simplicity is also its problem: there may be situations in which we wish there were more guidance to settle upon a judgment of negligence, even with the facts clearly presented. For example, suppose a six-year-old playing a game of tag in the local park knocks over a responsibly-behaving passerby. Does reasonable care naturally adjust to expect less innate reasonableness from a six-year-old? Should it?

The question of what standards to set for kids opens the door to a broader question of applied philosophy: to what extent should society withhold responsibility on the basis of the infirmities and limitations of a defendant, and reflect that in its legal standards? How much should expectations be raised for those said to possess extra abilities, whether of cognition or perception?