LEGISLATION AND THE STANDARD OF CARE IN NEGLIGENCE
AbstractIn a negligence action, the jury usually determines whether the defendant was in breach of a duty of care owed to the plaintiff. Once members of the jury decide what the reasonable man would have done, they compare it with what the defendant actually did, and thus determine whether his conduct was negligent or non-negligent. Before this can happen however, the plaintiff must adduce evidence of the defendant’s specific conduct. In this article, the author examines the possible effects of the plaintiff’s proof that the defendant violated a statute. Through reference to several cases, the author first examines the kinds of statutes that should be held irrelevant in negligence actions. In examining circumstances where the statute is silent on the question of the civil consequences of its breach, he then discusses several factors that influence the courts in determining whether or not the legislature intended to confer civil causes of action. The author then examines the consequences that follow when a court determines that the legislature did intend to confer civil causes of action, and concludes by examining instances where proof of the defendant’s breach of a safety statute should merely be evidence of his negligence.
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