The omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those ordinary considerations which ordinarily regulate human affairs, would do, or the doing of something which a reasonable and prudent man would not do. Negligence is the failure to use such care as a reasonably prudent and careful person would use under similar circumstances; it is the doing of some act which a person of ordinary prudence would not have done under similar circumstances or failure to do what a person of ordinary prudence would have done under similar circumstances. Amoco Chemical Corp. v. Hill, Del.Super., 318 A.2d 614, 617.
Conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm; it is a departure from the conduct expectable of a reasonably prudent person under like circumstances. U.S. v. Ohio Barge Lines, Inc., 607 F.2d 624, 632.
The term refers only to that legal delinquency which results whenever a man fails to exhibit the care which he ought to exhibit, whether it be slight, ordinary, or great. It is characterized chiefly by inadvertence, thoughtlessness, inattention, and the like, while "wantonness" or "recklessness" is characterized by willfulness. The law of negligence is founded on reasonable conduct or reasonable care under all circumstances of particular case. Doctrine of negligence rests on duty of every person to exercise due care in his conduct toward others from which injury may result.
See also actionable negligence
- imputed negligence
- reasonable man doctrine or standards
- standard of care
- actionable negligence
- collateral negligence
@ collateral negligence
Doctrine which holds that: An employer of an independent contractor, unless he is himself negligent, is not liable for physical harm caused by any negligence of the contractor if
(a) the contractor's negligence consists solely in the improper manner in which he does the work, and
(b) it creates a risk of such harm which is not inherent in or normal to the work, and
(c) the employer had no reason to contemplate the contractor's negligence when the contract was made. Restatement, Second, Torts No. 426.
@ contributory negligence
The act or omission amounting to want of ordinary care on part of complaining party, which, concurring with defendant's negligence, is proximate cause of injury. Honaker v. Crutchfield, 247 Ky. 495, 57 S.W.2d 502.
Conduct by a plaintiff which is below the standard to which he is legally required to conform for his own protection and which is a contributing cause which cooperates with the negligence of the defendant in causing the plaintiffs harm. Li v. Yellow Cab Co. of California, 13 Cal.3d 804, 119 Cal.Rptr. 858, 864, 532 P.2d 1226.
Conduct for which plaintiff is responsible amounting to a breach of duty which law imposes on persons to protect themselves from injury, and which, concurring and cooperating with actionable negligence for which defendant is responsible, contributes to injury complained of as a proximate cause. Cowan v. Dean, 81 S.D. 486, 137 N.W.2d 337, 341.
The defense of contributory negligence has been replaced by the doctrine of comparative negligence (q.v.) in many states.
See also exceptions and limitations; negligence
It is an affirmative defense which must be pleaded and proved by defendant. Fed.R.Civil P., Rule 8(c).
Doctrine is also applicable to one who through his own negligence has contributed to material alteration of a negotiable instrument. U.C.C. No. 3-406.
@ criminal negligence
Criminal negligence which will render killing a person manslaughter is the omission on the part of the person to do some act which an ordinarily careful and prudent man would do under like circumstances, or the doing of some act which an ordinarily careful, prudent man under like circumstances would not do by reason of which another person is endangered in life or bodily safety; the word "ordinary" being synonymous with "reasonable" in this connection.
Negligence of such a character, or occurring under such circumstances, as to be punishable as a crime by statute; or (at common law) such a flagrant and reckless disregard of the safety of others, or wilful indifference to the injury liable to follow, as to convert an act otherwise lawful into a crime when it results in personal injury or death. A wanton or reckless disregard for human life; a degree of carelessness amounting to a culpable disregard of rights and safety of others. Ruffin v. State, 10 Md. App. 102, 268 A.2d 494, 497.
That species of want of care by which a person may be criminally liable. It varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and is called culpable negligence in some. However, it generally refers to conduct which is not intentional and ordinarily not wilful, wanton and reckless.
- negligence
@ culpable negligence
Failure to exercise that degree of care rendered appropriate by the particular circumstances, and which a man of ordinary prudence in the same situation and with equal experience would not have omitted.
Degrees of negligence
While there are degrees of care, and failure to exercise proper degree of care is "negligence," most courts hold that there are no degrees (e.g. slight, ordinary, gross) of negligence, except in bailment cases or under automobile guest statutes. Murray v. De Luxe Motor Stages of Illinois, Mo.App., 133 S.W.2d 1074, 1078.
The prevailing view is that there are no "degrees" of care in negligence, as a matter of law; there are only different amounts of care as a matter of fact. To the extent that the degrees of negligence survive, they are described below.
Exceptions and limitations.
The general rule in automobile accident cases that contributory negligence bars recovery for the injuries sustained is subject to various exceptions and limitations. Thus the defense of contributory negligence may be inapplicable where defendant's negligence is of a gross or willful character. Moreover, application of the doctrine of contributory negligence is limited by the last clear chance doctrine or similar, doctrines, or by comparative negligence statutes.
@ gross negligence
@ ordinary and gross negligence
The intentional failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another. It is materially more want of care than constitutes simple inadvertence. It is an act or omission respecting } legal duty of an aggravated character as distinguished from a mere failure to exercise ordinary care. It amounts to indifference to present legal duty and to utter forgetfulness of legal obligations so far as other persons may be affected. It is a heedless and palpable violation of legal duty respecting the rights of others. The element of culpability which characterizes all negligence is in gross negligence magnified to a high degree as compared with that present in ordinary negligence.
Gross negligence is a manifestly smaller amount of watchfulness and circumspection than the circumstances require of a person of ordinary prudence. It falls short of being such reckless disregard of probable consequences as is equivalent to a wilful and intentional wrong.
Ordinary and gross negligence differ in degree of inattention, while both differ in kind from wilful and intentional conduct which is or ought to be known to have a tendency to injure. Gross negligence consists of conscious and voluntary act or omission which is likely to result in grave injury when in face of clear and present danger of which alleged tortfeasor is aware. Glaab v. Caudill, Fla.App., 236 So.2d 180, 182, 183, 185.
That entire want of care which would raise belief that act or omission complained of was result of conscious indifference to rights and welfare of persons affected by it. Claunch v. Bennett, Tex.Civ.App., 395 S.W.2d 719, 724.
Indifference to present legal duty and utter forgetfulness of legal obligations, so far as other persons may be affected, and a manifestly smaller amount of watchfulness and circumspection than the circumstances require of a person of ordinary prudence.
See also ordinary negligence
@ hazardous negligence
Such careless or reckless conduct as exposes one to very great danger of injury or to imminent peril.
@ imputed negligence
Refers to doctrine that places upon one person responsibility for the negligence of another; such responsibility or liability is imputed by reason of some special relationship of the parties, such as parent and child, husband and wife, driver and passenger, owner of vehicle and driver, bailor and bailee, master and servant, joint enterprise, and parent and custodian of a child. Schmidt v. Martin, 212 Kan. 373, 510 P.2d 1244, 1246.
Generally the doctrine of imputed negligence, as applied to automobile accidents, visits on one person legal responsibility for the negligent conduct of another. The doctrine applies only in limited classes of cases, as where there is a right to control in the relationship of master and servant, principal and agent, or a joint enterprise.
The independent negligence of one person ordinarily is not imputable to another person except where the relation between the persons gives rise to an express or implied agency in the person committing the act of negligence.
+ imputed negligence
The negligence of one person may be chargeable to another depending upon the relationship of the parties, as for example, the negligence of an agent acting within the scope of his employment is chargeable to the principal. Negligence which is not directly attributable to the person himself, but which is the negligence of a person who is in privity with him, and with whose fault he is chargeable.
See also negligence
@ ordinary negligence
The omission of that care which a person of common prudence usually takes of his own concerns. Briggs v. Spaulding, 141 U.S. 132, 11 S.Ct. 924, 35 L.Ed. 662.
Failure to exercise care of an ordinarily prudent person in same situation. A want of that care and prudence that the great majority of mankind exercise under the same or similar circumstances. Wherever distinctions between gross, ordinary and slight negligence are observed, "ordinary negligence" is said to be the want of ordinary care. Ordinary negligence is based on fact that one ought to have known results of his acts, while "gross negligence" rests on assumption that one knew results of his acts, but was recklessly or wantonly indifferent to results. The distinction between "ordinary negligence" and "gross negligence" is that the former lies in the field of inadvertence and the latter in the field of actual or constructive intent to injure.
+ ordinary negligence
The failure to use that degree of care which the ordinary or reasonably prudent person would have used under the circumstances and for which the negligent person is liable. Term is used in contradistinction to gross negligence which is more serious and a more flagrant lack of care.
See also negligence, and ordinary care, above
@ passive negligence
Failure to do something that should have been done. It is negligence which permits defects, obstacles, or pitfalls to exist on premises; that is, negligence which causes dangers arising from physical condition of land. Pachowitz v. Milwaukee & Suburban Transport Corp., 56 Wis.2d 383, 202 N.W.2d 268, 275.
Difference between "active" and "passive" negligence is that one is only passively negligent if he merely fails to act in fulfillment of duty of care which law imposes upon him, while one is actively negligent if he participates in some manner in conduct or omission which caused injury. King v. Timber Structures, Inc. of Cal., 240 Cal.App.2d 178, 49 Cal.Rptr. 414, 417.
@ per se negligence
The unexcused violation of a statute which is applicable is per se or automatic negligence in some states.
See also negligence per se.
@ slight negligence
A failure to exercise great care. Slight negligence is defined to be only an absence of that degree of care and vigilance which persons of extraordinary prudence and foresight are accustomed to use. Briggs v. Spaulding, 141 U.S. 132, 11 S.Ct. 924, 35 L.Ed. 662.
@ subsequent negligence
Exists where defendant sees plaintiff in a position of danger and fails to exercise due and proper precaution to prevent injury to plaintiff. Holman v. Brady, 241 Ala. 487, 3 So.2d 30, 33.
@ tax negligence
I.R.C. No. 6653(a) imposes a penalty on taxpayers who show negligence or intentional disregard of rules and regulations with respect to the underpayment of certain taxes.
@ wilful negligence
@ wanton negligence
@ reckless negligence
@ wilful, wanton or reckless negligence
wilful, wanton or reckless negligence
These terms are customarily treated as meaning essentially the same thing. The usual meaning assigned to "wilful," "wanton" or "reckless," according to taste as to the word used, is that the actor has intentionally done an act of an unreasonable character in disregard of a risk known to him or so obvious that he must be taken to have been aware of it, and so great as to make it highly probable that harm would follow. It usually is accompanied by a conscious indifference to the consequences, amounting almost to willingness that they shall follow; and it has been said that this is indispensable.
See for example Tyndall v. Rippon, 5 Del.Super. 458, 61 A.2d 422; Wolters v. Venhaus, 350 Ill.App. 322, 112 N.E.2d 747.
The result is that "wilful," "wanton" or "reckless" conduct tends to take on the aspect of highly unreasonable conduct, or an extreme departure from ordinary care, in a situation where a high degree of danger is apparent. As a result there is often no clear distinction at all between such conduct and "gross" negligence, and the two have tended to merge and take on the same meaning, of an aggravated form of negligence, differing in quality rather than in degree from ordinary lack of care. It is at least clear, however, that such aggravated negligence must be more than any mere mistake resulting from inexperience, excitement, or confusion, and more than mere thoughtlessness or inadvertence, or simple inattention. "Wantonness" constituting gross and wanton negligence within automobile guest statute indicates a realization of imminence of danger and a reckless disregard, complete indifference, and unconcern of probable consequences of the wrongful act. Mann v. Good, 202 Kan. 631, 451 P.2d 233, 236
+ wanton negligence
Heedless and reckless disregard for another's rights with consciousness that act or omission to act may result in injury to another. Craig v. Stagner, 159 Tenn. 511, 19 S.W.2d 234, 236.
See also negligence
- recklessness
@ negligence, estoppel by
@ estoppel by negligence
Equitable estoppel can arise when one through culpable negligence induces another to believe certain facts to exist and the other reasonably relies and acts on such belief. Imposition of an estoppel in such setting is designed to assure that the loss is borne by the party who made the injury possible or who could have prevented it. Foley Machinery Co. v. Amland Contractors, Inc., 209 N.J.Super. 70, 506 A.2d 1263.
@ negligence in law
"Actionable negligence" or "negligence in law" grows out of nonobservance of a duty prescribed by law.
See also negligence per se
@ negligence per se
A form of ordinary negligence that results from violation of a statute. Seim v. Garavalia, Minn., 306 N.W.2d 806, 810. Conduct, whether of action or omission, which may be declared and treated as negligence without any argument or proof as to the particular surrounding circumstances, either because it is in violation of a specific statute or valid municipal ordinance, or because it is so palpably opposed to the dictates of common prudence that it can be said without hesitation or doubt that no careful person would have been guilty of it. As a general rule, the violation of a public duty, enjoined by law for the protection of person or property, so constitutes.

Black's law dictionary. . 1990.

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