The Trouble with Negligence

49 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2000

See all articles by Kenneth S. Abraham

Kenneth S. Abraham

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: December 2000


Despite the extensive efforts of legal scholars to define negligence and to explore the relation between negligence and other standards of conduct, the character of negligence liability remains incompletely recognized. In this paper I argue that close examination of the negligence standard reveals that it is more troubled than its apparently central place in tort law implies. Far from being an appropriate default rule to be used when we are unsatisfied with the alternatives, the negligence standard is often flawed even in the ordinary cases involving liability for physical damage that are at its core. These same flaws render negligence an even less appropriate standard in most cases involving intangible loss, where at least until now it has been employed only in exceptional cases.

Suggested Citation

Abraham, Kenneth S., The Trouble with Negligence (December 2000). UVA School of Law, Public Law Working Paper No. 00-13, Available at SSRN: or

Kenneth S. Abraham (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

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