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SOSC1375 - Reasonable Person Lecture.docx

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York University
Social Science
SOSC 1375
Olena Kobzar

Reasonable Person Lecture o What's the problem with applying the concept of reasonable person o Standards are all diff; somehow come up with a 'personal' standard; bias o We need this standard Tort Law o Derived from a Latin word Tortus meaning a 'wrong' o A wrong committed by one person against another, or against the person's property or reputation either intentionally or unintentionally o Lots of things we want to do in society (try out a new car) but yet it's unsafe to do so (driving 200 km/h) so you have a lot of harm done to society. o Court recognizes individuals have a lot of freedom/ rights. o Courts try to balance individual freedom with safety of society. o Also covers cases where a person causing an injury has no lawful right to do so o No precise definition - a civil wrong o Most of our criminal law was once tort law o Dates back to a time when courts first saw the need to remedy a wrong o Courts - balance: Individual Freedom vs. Injury Negligent Law Suit Vaughan v Menlove (1837) -> significance (first time the courts articulated the concept of a reasonable person) o English tort law case - concept of the reasonable person is elaborated for the first time o Mr. Menlove build a haystack near his neighbors (Mr. Vaughan's) property o Mr. Menlove was aware that the haystack wasn't property build o His neighbors told him he did it wrong. o Because he didn't built it the right way; lightning hit the haystack and the fire started (cause the metal piece in the middle wasn't there) o Two of Mr. Vaughan's cottages were destroyed in a fire o The jury in the trial had to decide whether Mr. Menlove "proceeded with such reasonable caution as a prudent man would have exercised under such circumstances" o Lightning is still considered 'act of god' o Technically manlove was like "I didn’t burn down your cottages; why should I be responsible?" o Vaughan = the fault is on you. o Courts had to decide can't just make decisions on who does what; have to decide who is a prudent man and did he act with a reasonable act of caution? o If you do something wrong and are told you are doing wrong then it's like a triple charge. o If someone tripped over the stairs and someone fell and suffer injury and it's resolved; but if movie theatres don't do anything (add special lighting) and someone falls again then they're liable for more damages. o Negligence, reasonability, and foreseeability. Duty of care: responsibility -> was his responsibility for people around him. o Oaks test Was used in negligent cases Duty of Care/ Rights duty relationship o Referred to as the right-duty relationship in tort law o The duty not to injure must be owed to the party who suffers the injury o The injured party must have a legal right that has been violated by the act or omission of the other o How do you decide if someone's responsible for you injury or is it just bad luck? o Did the person who injured you owe you a duty of care? Duty of Care is confusing; Good Samaritan Law o If someone is in an accident and their spine is dislocated and you try to move them and they get paralyzed you're liable for it o We're not liable for duty of care for people on the street o The more experienced you are the more liable you are for this Criminal law; whoever hurt you meant to do it Plumber didn't really mean for the pipe to explode and injure the person The concept of Foreseeability o Foreseeability as an element of tory liability was a difficult concept for the courts to apply o A standard that has to be determined before damages for an unintentional act could be determined. Who is this reasonable person? o The courts seized upon a mythical person - 'the reasonable person' as a standard o Courts measured the actions of the negligent person against what might be the actions of the reasonable person in the same situation o The reasonable person was presumed to possess normal intelligence and would exercise reasonable care in their actions towards others o Problems with this o Biases; your own experience of what a reasonable person is Negligence o People are found liable in negligence more often for their acts than omissions o Rarely does a person have a legal duty to act positively, rather duty is defined as a duty to refrain from acting negatively o No 'mens rea' -- a guilty state of mind or intention to commit a wrong is necessary o Rarely does a person have a 'legal duty' to do something Tort Liability and the Reasonable Person o Would a reasonable person in similar circumstances have foreseen the injury to the plaintiff as a consequence of their action? o Yes: defendant at fault o No: defendant blameless o 'The reasonable person test' allows the courts flexibility and can change with the society o Butler case o Facebook; anything you put on fb can be used against you o Who is the 'reasonable
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