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Duties and Rights in Negligence: A Comparative and Historical Perspective on the European Law
of Extracontractual Liability
Author(s): Nils Jansen
Source: Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Autumn, 2004), pp. 443-469
Published by: Oxford University Press
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JournalofLegal Studies,Vol. 24, No. 3 (2004), pp. 443-469
Oxford

Dutiesand Rightsin Negligence:


A Comparativeand Historical
on theEuropeanLaw
Perspective
ofExtracontractual
Liability
NILS JANSEN*

Abstract-Recent theoreticalanalysishas exhibiteda structuralambiguityin the


normativefoundationof the tortof negligence,namelyuncertainty whetherliability
is based on the breach of a legal dutyor on the responsibility forthe victim'sloss.
This normativeambiguityis due to the factthatthe European law of extracontrac-
tual liabilitywas conceptuallyframedfor purposes totallydifferent frommodem
ideas of fairdistributionof risksthathave historicallybeen connectedwithrights-
based conceptionsof tortlaw. From a comparativepointofview it becomes appar-
ent thatthe idea of protectingindividualrightsby tortiousremediesis constitutive
forthe modem European law of extracontractual liability,althoughhiddenbeyond
the dominantterminology of duties,breach and wrong.Thus it is submittedthata
rights-basedanalysisof the law of tortsoffersa significantly betterunderstanding
thantraditionalduty-modelscan achieve.

1. Introduction
John Gardner has recently pointed out an important ambiguity in the moral
basis of liability for negligence.' On the one hand, it might be said that liability
arises because the wrongdoer has violated a legal duty. As a consequence, in
principle, there can be liability without the causing of damage: the breach of
a duty, not the victim's loss is then the ground for relief. On the other hand,
liability could be based on the responsibility for a certain outcome:2 on this
understanding, a wrongdoer is liable because he is responsible for the
claimant's injury, and duties of care serve to describe the range of individual
responsibility.
* ProfessorforGermanand European Civil Law at theUniversity ofDiisseldorf.This paper is largelybased on a
lectureI gave beforethe OxfordInstituteof European and ComparativeLaw at the kindinvitationof Dr Simon
Whittaker.For helpfulstylisticadvice I would like to expressmythanksto JamesBallance, Jaques DuPlessis and
JohnEekelaar.
1J.Gardner,'Obligationsand outcomesin the law of torts'in P. Cane & J. Gardner(eds), RelatingtoResponsi-
bility.EssayforTonyHonoreon His Eightieth Birthday(2001) at 111, 124 f.
2 This is the centralidea of T. Honor6's theoryof 'outcome-responsibility' (also discussed by Gardnerin this
context:ibid at 126 ff.);see his articlescollectedin Responsibility
and Fault (1999).

Press 2004; all rightsreserved


JournalofLegal Studies,Vol. 24, No. 3, ? OxfordUniversity
Oxford

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444 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

A. SpeciallyRecognizedTypesofLoss
This outcome-relatedmodel of liabilitycan be helpfulin explaininganother
centralfeatureofliabilityfornegligence,namelythe different treatment ofdiffer-
ent typesof losses thatwould be difficult to explainifthe breach of a legal duty
werethegroundforrelief:normallya valid claimpresupposesa preciselydefined
outcome-an injuryto property(in its widestsense, includingimmaterialprop-
erty),to bodilyintegrity and healthor to a comparableinterest.Althoughthis
restriction of liabilitysometimesseems difficult to explain,it constitutesa com-
mon featureof European privatelaw. In England it has been expressedduring
the course of the 20th centuryin discussionsof different typesof losses3--pure
economic loss and psychiatricinjuryare recoverableonlyunder narrowlycon-
strained,special conditions. German law expresses the same restrictionby
groundingliabilityon the infringement of a subjective,absolute rightor an
and
equally protectedinterest,4 similarly Italian law makes recoverydependent
on a dannoingiusto5-this approach has also been suggestedfora futureEuropean
law.6Frenchlaw, however,seemsto rejectsuch a different treatment ofdifferent
types of losses by the broad formulationof art. 1382 Code civil.7None the less, it
reachessimilarresultsto theotherEuropeanlawsbyresorting to opaque consider-
ationsof damage,faultand causation.8

Relianceand Legal Responsibility


B. Justified
Now, treatingdifferent can easilybe expressedin terms
typesoflosses differently
ofdifferent
ofthelegalprotection formsofindividualrelianceand, correspondingly,
forone's own goods. Normally,everybodyis freein
in termsof responsibility

3 D. Ibbetson,A HistoricalIntroduction totheLaw ofObligations (1999) at 194 f.


4 ? 823 sect I Biirgerliches Gesetzbuch(BGB); cf.also F.H. Lawson, "'Das subjektiveRecht"in theEnglishLaw
ofTorts', in Many Laws (1977), 176, 185 ff.,190.
5 Art.2043 Italian Codicecivile:detrimentto an interestprotectedby tortlaw, caused withoutjustification; see
C.von Bar, TheCommonEuropeanLaw ofTorts(1998/2000) vol II, n 217; F.D. Busnelli& G. Comande, "'Wrong-
fulness"in the Italian Legal System'in H. Koziol (ed), Unification of TortLaw: Wrongfulness (1998) at 69 f. The
formulationis much older; it is traceable to the late usus modernus;cf. G.A. Struve,Syntagmajurisprudentiae
secundum ordinem Pandectarum concinnatum (con additionibusPetriMiilleri,Francofurti & Lipsiae 1738), D. 9, 2, exerc.
XIV, ? 19 (comment):damnumiustum and damnuminiustum; Commentar
L.J.F.H6pfner,Theoretisch-practischer iiberdie
Heineccischen Institutionen (Frankfurt a.M: 4th edn, 1793), ? 754: 'ungerechter Schaden'. However,it standstherefor
thedifferent (problematic)idea thattheresultoflawfulbehaviourmustnotlead to liability; cf.Jansen,Die Struktur des
Haftungsrechts. Geschichte, Theorie undDogmatikauJfervertraglicher AnspriicheaufSchadensersatz(2003) at 304.
6 See C.von Bar, EuropeanLaw ofTorts, vol II, above n 5: on theone hand C.von Bar rejectstheidea ofgrounding
delictualliabilityon theinfringement ofan absolutesubjectiveright(cf.,e.g. nn 3, 217). On theotherhandhe insiststhat
not everyloss caused by an unlawfulactionmaybe recoverableand thatthelaw is givingspecialprotection to specially
protectedinterests (nn 1 ff.,470, 533, 535 and passim).The centralpointseemsto consistin his thesisthatthelaw of
tortsdecidesautonomouslyabout whichinterests to protect(n 217 and Das deutsche in gemeineuropdischer
Deliktsrecht
Perspektive (1999) at 11 ff.).However,thisis no argumentagainsta right-theory ofextracontractual it is-inter
liability:
alia-the law of tortsthatexpressesthe allocationof rightsto individuals:cf. P. Cane, 'Fault and StrictLiabilityfor
Harm in Tort Law' in W. Swadling& G. Jones(eds), TheSearchforPrinciple, essaysin honourofLordGoffofChieveley
(1999) at 171, 173: 'thedefinition of... property rightsis to be foundpartlyin propertylaw and partlyin tortlaw'.
7 Similarly Austrian (? 1295 I ABGB) and Swiss law (Art41 OR) are based on a generalclause includingpure
economiclosses; see H. Koziol, 'Generalnormund Einzeltatbestindeals SystemederVerschuldenshaftung: Unter-
schiedeund Angleichungsm6glichkeiten' (1995) Zeitschriftfiir EuropdischesPrivatrecht(ZEuP) 359 ff.
s Cf. W. Van Gerven et al., Cases,Materials and Text on and
National,Supranational International Tort Law (2000) at 76
ff.(forcausationand fault);J.Carbonnier, DroitCivilIV: lesobligations (21stedn, 1988) beforenn 199 ff.(fordamage).

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AUTUMN 2004 Dutiesand Rightsin Negligence 445

principleto cause economic loss and emotionaldistressto others:indeed, the


idea of a free marketpresupposes that everybodymay be earningmoney at
somebody else's expense, and normallynobody must complain about mental
suffering ifhis friendis injured-or lost to anotherlover.Thus, everybodycan
be said to be personallyresponsibleforhis own wealth and emotionalstate of
mind: ifthingsgo wrong,that'ssimplybad luck. However,the same is not true
forlegallyspeciallyprotectedinterestslike healthor property.Here, everybody
may relyon the integrity of these goods: nobody is normallyallowed to pursue
his aims at the price of violatingotherpeople's healthor property,9 and corre-
spondinglya tortfeasorresponsiblefor an injurywill have to make good the
damage caused: at least economically integritywill be restored. Outcome-
responsibility is thenbased on disappointingthe legallyjustifiedrelianceon the
integrity of theprotectedgood.
Correspondingly otherpeople should not be responsibleformylosses insofar
as I am myselfresponsibleformyown goods; thisidea explainstherestriction of
liabilityin negligenceto certaintypesof losses: whatsometimesis regardedas a
somewhat arbitraryrestrictionof liability,pragmaticallynecessaryin order to
'keep the floodgates shut',10immediatelybecomes plausible on normative
grounds.Normally,ifno protectedinterestis infringed, thereis no good reason
forcompensation,because the 'victim'is responsibleforhimself.
Of course, all legal systemssometimesdo award claims forpure economic
loss. Apartfromcases ofvoluntaryassumptionofresponsibility forthe claimant's
interests," this normallyhappens where the claimantis the victimof fraud,of
unfaircompetitionor of a similarcriminaloffence.12The reason forthisis sim-
plythateverybodymayrelyon othersnot treatinghim unlawfully. Here, the law
protectsrelianceon thelawfulbehaviourof others:myown responsibility comes
to an end whereI am thevictimof a criminalact or a similaroffence,and there-
forethe tortfeasor can be said to be outcome-responsible formyeconomic loss.
Thus it may be said thatthe tortof negligenceand, more generally,the law of

9 And whereone is allowed to do so-e.g. in cases of extremenecessity,one shouldbe obligedto make good the
damage when causinga loss: Vincent v Lake Erie Transp.Co., SupremeCourt of Minnesota, 124 NW 221 (1910);
J.Fleming,TheLaw ofTorts(9th edn, 1998) at 105; see, moredetailed,below 6D.
10This is mostfamouslyexpressedin Cardozo's fearof 'liabilityin an indeterminedamountforan indetermined
timeto an indeterminedclass': Ultramares Corporationv Touche,174 NE 441, 444 (1931); todaysee, forinstance,
J.Spier (ed), The LimitsofExpandingLiability-KeepingtheFloodgatesShut (1996); C.von Bar, EuropeanLaw of
Torts,vol II, above n 5 at n 1.
11HedleyByrnev Heller& Partners[1964] AC 466f.,486f (Lord Reid), 529f. (Lord Devlin); Whitev Jones[1995]
2 AC 207, 268 ff.(Lord Goff),271f. (Lord Browne-Wilkinson); see also Springv GuardianAssurance[1995] 2 AC
296. On the same lines the German doctrinehas developed a theoryof reliance-liability ('Vertrauenshaftung'; see
e.g. C.-W. Canaris, 'Die Vertrauenshaftung im Lichte der Rechtsprechungdes Bundesgerichtshofs' in id. et al.
(eds), 50JahreBundesgerichtshof.Festgabeaus derWissenschaft(2000) at 129, 131 f., 171 ff.).It is applied in cases of
quasi-contractualacceptance of responsibility for the claimant's economic integrity;see Jansen,Haftungsrecht,
above n 5 at 534 ff.
12In Germanythis is regulatedby ? 823 II BGB that resemblesterminologically verymuch the English tort
'breach of a statutoryduty'. Whereas howeverthe veryaim of this provisionis seen to impose liabilityeven for
purelyeconomic losses, English courts are extremelyreluctantto understandthis tortin that way-they prefer
takingrecourseto special economic torts;cf. B.S. Markesinis& S.F. Deakin, TortLaw (4th edn, 1999) at 340 f.,
466 ff.;T. Weir,EconomicTorts(1997).

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446 JournalofLegalStudies
Oxford VOL.24

tortsprotectboth relianceon the integrityof especiallyprotectedinterests,and


reliance on the lawfulbehaviour of otherswhere there are-rarely--genuine
legal dutiesindependentof such interests.

C. StrictLiability
Neitherof theseaspectsof reliancecan be reducedto the other.This is not only
true (as explained) forlegal duties that are independentof speciallyprotected
goods. Converselymyrelianceon theintegrity ofthesespeciallyprotectedgoods
be
may independent any of first-order-reliance
on myneighboursbehavinglaw-
fully.This is so ifothers are allowed to endangermygoods at thepriceofpaying
compensation in case of a damage.13 Thus, the protectionof reliance on the
integrityof speciallyprotectedgoods may not onlybe regardedas an argument
forduties of care leadingto second-order-duties of compensation.14 The integ-
rityof these goods may also be protectedby a strictliability,independently
of anypriorfirst-order-duty of carefulbehaviour.Obligationsof liabilityneither
conceptuallynor normatively presuppose the violationof a firstorder duty of
behaviour.15 However,interestingly, thereare normallyno cases of strictliability
withoutan injuryto propertyor healthor a similarly protectedindividualgood.16

D. Right-Conceptions
ofExtracontractual
Liability
These two differentideas of reliance and liabilityhave historicallybeen dis-
cussed as right-and duty-conceptionsof tortiousliability,and a discussion in
these termsmay today be helpful,too, if the term 'right'is understoodade-
quately.Of course,thatis not the case, ifit is understoodas a simpleright,the
correspondingaspect of a duty:thiswould add nothingto the duty-conception
of tortiousliability,because simple rightsand duties are identical." If, how-
ever, a rightis conceived more broadlyas a strong'8fundamentalreason for

13 G. Calabresi, TheCostofAccidents(1970) at 69 ff.,111 ff.,119 ff.


14
This is thetraditionalunderstanding ofthe German? 823 I BGB since itwas conceptualizedin thiswayat the
beginningofthe 20th centuryby authorslikeA. von Tuhr (Der Allgemeine TeildesDeutschen Rechts,vol
Biirgerlichen
I (1910) at 150 ff.;cf. also vol II/2 (1918) at 457 f.,460) and R. Schulz-Schiffer(Das subjektive
Rechtim Gebietder
unerlaubten Handlungen(1915) at 111 ff.and passim).
15Contraryto this,it is oftenarguedthateverydutyof compensationpresupposesthebreachof a primaryduty
of behaviour;also JohnGardnerproceeds fromthe assumptionthatstrictliabilityis based on strict'duties not to
injure', conceived as guarantee-obligations 'to succeed':above n 1 at 117 ff.But thereis no reason forsuch an
assumption:liabilitycan be attached-without any moral or conceptual difficulty--to the mere fact of being
responsibleforanother'sdamage; see below section1D.
16
See below 6B.
17A's rightagainstB ofdoing9 is thenthe equivalentofB's dutyagainstA to do (p.
18
Describingrightsas 'strong'reasons does not entailto conceive themas 'trumps'(cf. R. Dworkin,'Taking
RightsSeriously'in TakingRightsSeriously(2nd edn, 1977)). Rightsas describedabove have a principle-structure.
They maythusbe balanced againstcollidingarguments,and thesemayeven getprevalencein a concretesituation.
Things being equal, however,rightsare strongerthan normal-moral or legal-normativeconsiderationslike the
need to protectan interest:especiallystrongcounter-reasonsare needed to outweighthe position protectedas
a right;see R. Alexy,A TheoryofConstitutional Rights(2002) at 44 ff.,178 ff.,192 ff.and passim;Jansen,'Die
Abwigungvon Grundrechten'36 (1997) Der Staat 27, 51 ff.

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AUTUMN 2004 Duties and Rightsin Negligence 447

action19(fundamentalright),it can illuminatethe normativestructureof the


modem law of torts.This is so, because a rightis thenconceivedas a legal posi-
tionthatshouldprotantobe protectedby a completebundle oflegal claims (viz.
simplerights),and as such itcan be understoodas an immediate moralbasis foran
extracontractual liability.
Rights20are not onlyprotectedbyprohibitions againstan
infringement but also by a bundle of different otherclaims-like a reivindicatio
or a restitutionary claim. Therefore,the responsibilityforinfringing a rightis a
valid legal reason fora dutyof compensation.Both the violationof a legal duty
and theinfringement ofsucha rightcan be independentmoralreasonsforliability.
This idea of rightsgivingrise to a claim fordamages has oftenbeen argued
for,21 and by most influentiallawyers and writersof differentcountries.22
Mostly-as with RichardEpstein's theory23-ithas been used as an argument
forreplacingthecurrenttortlaw's fault-basedrulesby a regimeof strictliability,
and as such ithas neverreallysucceeded. None theless-this is thecentralthesis
of thisarticle-this idea is a partof the presentEuropean law: it formsthe basic
normativefoundationofthemodem understanding ofthetortofnegligenceand
likewiseof the comparablerules in otherEuropean countries.As such it is hid-
den underthe surfaceofthe currentterminology of duties,faultand wrongfulor
unlawfulbehaviour.In orderto explainthis,itwillbe helpfulto examinetheroots
of right-conceptions of negligence(Section 3) only afterfirsttracingthe duty-
terminology to its origin(Section 2). Of course,the questionmustbe answered,
why the duty-terminology has become as dominantas it is today (Sections 4, 5).
Only afterthisis done, can the presentEuropean law adequatelybe understood
(Section 6).

2. Punishment, and Duties


Compensation
A. Originsin Roman Law

Conceptually,the modem European law of extracontractual liabilityhas largely


been framedby ancient Roman law: the main concepts determiningliability
nowadays are still'tort' or 'unlawfulness'(Unrechtor Rechtswidrigkeit, illegalite,
iniuria),'fault' (Verschulden,
faute,culpa) and 'loss' or 'damage' (Schaden,dom-
mage,damnum):compensationfora loss is owed ifthetortfeasor has caused it by
an unlawfulact violatinga legal duty.To performthis centralfunctionwithin

19R.von Jhering, Geistdes rdmischenRechtsauf denverschiedenen StufenseinerEntwicklung,Teil3, (8th edn, repr.


1954) at 338 f.; J.Raz, 'On the Nature of Rights'93 (1984) Mind 194 ff.;'Right-BasedMoralities'in J.Waldron
(ed), Theoriesof Rights(1984) at 182 f.; for a critique of such a terminologyM.R. Kramer, 'Rights Without
Trimmings'in M. Kramer,N.E. Simmonds& H. Steiner,A DebateOverRights(1998) at 7, 41 ff.,33; see fora dis-
cussion also Alexy,ConstitutionalRights(n 18) at 115 f. The debate betweendifferenttheoriesof rightsis largelya
questionofterminology: ifnot indicatedotherwise,in the followingtext'right'standsfor'fundamentalright'.
20See n 18 f.
21 See below 5B at nn 140 ff.
22See below 4A.
23
R. Epstein,'A Theoryof StrictLiability'2 (1973) JLSt. 151 ff.

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448 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

the law of torts,iniuriaand damnumhad firstbeen introducedduringthe first


halfof the thirdcenturyBC by the lexAquilia,24a plebiscitebased on ancient,
even archaiclegal ideas.25The concept of a fault(culpa) was introducedby the
juristssome 150 yearslater;26it gave expressionto new ideas of dutiesof care as
partof the moresmaiorum.27
Delictual liabilitythen, however,was quite differentfromextracontractual
liabilitytoday.Today the law oftortsis guidedby the idea offaircompensation.
Damages are assessed preciselyin orderto make surethata loss is fullycompen-
satedwithouttheclaimantbeingenrichedat thecost ofthetortfeasor. Deterrence
may be an aim of tortlaw, but it is achieved by duties of faircompensation.28
Correspondinglyjudges make defendantsliable, if they thinkthat they are
responsibleforthe claimant'sloss; and theyoftenmake broad use of the termi-
nologyof 'duties'and 'breach'whendetermining thescope ofindividualresponsi-
bility.Thus, legal thinkingproceeds fromthe victim'sloss and asks foranother
person'sdutyto make good the damage caused.
Such considerationswould probablyhave sounded strangeto earlyRoman
lawyers,sincetheirlaw of tortswas primarily concernednot withfaircompensa-
tion, but withjust revenge:the damnumdue under the lexAquilia was under-
stood as a poena, and the rules guidingits applicationshow clearlythatit was
meant as a privatesanction.If the tortfeasor died, thatwas bad luck forhis vic-
tim-the tortfeasor'sheirswould be liable only if theywere enrichedby their
father'swrong.29 However,had the claimantbeen the victimof a jointtort,he
was in a good position:of course all tortfeasors had to pay the fulldamnum30
each of themhad done thewrong,and therefore each of themwas to accept the
it
poena. Thus, may be said that poena was understood as a kindof an economic
retaliation.31The victimwas allowed to cause the same loss to thetortfeasorthat
he had sufferedat his hand. Lawyers were asking for a fair sanction for a
wrong-just compensationwas, at best,a matterof secondaryrelevance.

24Gai. D. 9, 2, 2 pr. (ch. I): si quisservumservamque alienumalienamvequadrupedem velpecudeminiuriaocciderit,


quantiid in eo annoplurimifuit, tantumaes dare dominodamnasesto;Ulp. D. 9, 2, 27, 5 (ch. III): ceterarum rerum
si quis alteridamnumfaxit,quod usserit fregerit
ruperit proximis,tantumaes
iniuria,quantiea reseritin diebustriginta
dominodaredamnasesto.For the (disputed)datingsee R. Zimmermann,TheLaw ofObligations. RomanFoundations
oftheCivilianTradition(pap. ed. 1996) at 955 ff.
25Conceptuallyand normatively the lexAquilia relieslargelyon the oldertortslikeosfractumand membrum rup-
tumofthe TwelveTables:Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 203 ff.,216 ff.
26It appearsfirstin the sourcesby authorsofthepreclassical'naturallaw-school'likeQuintusP. Mucius: Paul./
Muc. D. 9, 2, 31; Pomp./Muc.D. 9, 2, 39; see D. Pugsley,'On the Lex Aquilia and Culpa' 50 (1982) Tijdschrift
voorRechtsgeschiedenis (TR) 1, 11; P. Voci, "'Diligentia", "Custodia", "Culpa'" 56 (1990) Studia et documenta
historiae et iuris(SDHI) 29, 41 ff.;A. Watson, The Law ofObligations in theLaterRepublic(1965) at 238; forQu.
Mucius Scaevola see 0. Behrends,in M. Stolleis(ed.), Juristen. Lexikon.VonderAntikebiszum 20.
Ein biographisches
Jahrhundert (1995) at 444 f.
27
Cato, De agricultura,66, 1; 67, 2, 142; Columella,De rerustica,1, 2, 1; 1, 8, 18.
28This is also a main assumptionof the economic
analysisesof tortlaw; cf. Calabresi,Accidentsabove n 13;
W.M. Landes & R.A. Posner, TheEconomicStructure ofTortLaw (1987) at 185 ff.and passim:punitivedamagesare
regardedas an exception.
29 Ulp. D. 9, 2, 23, 8; Inst.4, 3, 9; 4, 12, 1 = Gai. 4, 112; cf. Zimmermann,Obligations above n 24 at 915 ff.;
M. Kaser, Das ramische Privatrecht (2nd edn, 1971/75),vol I at 600.
30Iul. D. 9, 2, 51, 1; Ulp. D. 9, 2, 11, 2 and 4.
31Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 207 ff.

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AUTUMN2004 Duties and Rightsin Negligence 449

Clearly,such a sanction-orientated law of tortsmustprimarilybe concerned


with the descriptionof wrongfulbehaviour.If thereis no unlawfulbehaviour,
thereis no justificationfora sanction.Thus iniuria,culpaand damnumas a poena
are suitable legal concepts. It is less plausible, however,why modern law still
resortsto the terminology of duties and breach,while it is primarilyconcerned
with fair compensation: most tort lawyers would agree (and judges have
expresslydecided on such a basis)32 thatliabilitymightbe the consequence of a
lawfulactionand thatliabilitysometimesdoes depend on thebetteropportunity
of insuringthe loss, or on the question whetherthe tortfeasor was pursuingan
economic interestof his own-companies mightbe more strictlyliable than
privatepersons.Withinthe relationof employersand employeesthe latterare
privilegedwhen causing harm and the liabilitylies withthe employer,because
the accidentis partlyregardedas the employer'srisk.33Similarly,in Germanyit
is generallytakeninto account whetherthe victimwas a child,because children
are supposed to be economicallyprivileged:34 theymust not bear the costs of
typical accidents. None of this has anything do withthe unlawfulnessof the
to
damaging action or with the tortfeasor's fault;but none the less it is normally
expressed within that terminology.
Now, such considerationswere not alien to the developed, late classical
Roman law of the 2nd and 3rd centuryAD. On the one hand we are told that
culpa levissima,slightestfault,could be sufficient foraquilian liability.35
Infirmi-
tas, a lack of physicalstrength, would in this sense count as 'fault'36-without
unlawfulness.On the otherhand, a servusbonafideserviens, a freemanerrone-
ouslyservingas a slave,was liable onlyforgrossnegligence.37 The riskofnormal
negligenceshould lie withhis dominuswho had employedhimin his own interest
and who should thereforebear the costs that he would also have borne if his
employeehad reallybeen a slave.
Such decisions show that considerations of just risk-allocationbetween
tortfeasorsand victimshad founda place withinthe late Roman interpretation
of the lex Aquilia. Economically and socially life had changed enormously
betweenthe ruralrepublicantimesof the lexAquilia and the anonymousmeg-
alopolis of the late principate;38and the law had responded to growing
demands forfaircompensation.This becomes apparentfromthe factthatthe
sanction of the lex Aquilia, originallymeasured by the worth of the object
32Nettleshipv Weston[1971] 3 All ER 581, 586 (perLord Denning).
33C.von Bar, EuropeanLaw ofTortsabove n 5, vol I, nn 188, 193, 195, 205; vol II, nn 236, 324, 328.
34Oberlandesgericht (OLG) Hamm (1992) Versicherungsrecht (VersR) 629 f.; Bundesgerichtshof(BGH) (1995)
NeueJuristische Wochenschrift (NJW) 2631; Jansen,Haftungsrecht (n 5) at 71f.;forfurther see J.Hager, in
references
J. Staudingers Kommentar zum Biurgerlichen Gesetzbuch
mitEinfiihrungsgesetzundNebengesetzen(13th edn, 1993), 5
823, nn E 45 ff.
culpavenit.
35 Ulp. D. 9, 2, 44 pr. in legeAquilia etlevissima
culpaeadnumeratur.
36 Gai. D. 9, 2, 8, 1: infirmitas
37 Pomp. D. 41, 1, 54, 2: sed damnumdando damniiniuriaetenebitur, ut tamenculpamin damnodando exigere
debeamusgraviorem nectamenlevemquamab extraneo.
3 Alreadyin the times of Augustus,there were probablymore than a million inhabitantslivingin Rome;
cf.J.Carcopino,Rom (2nd edn, 1979) at 12 ff.;F. DeMartino, Wirtschaftsgeschichte desaltenRom (2nd edn, 1991)
at 200 ff.

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450 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

damaged,39was modifiedin orderto guaranteefullcompensation


to theclaimant40
(theidea of economicretaliation beinga suitabledeviceforthenecessarychanges
in the law).
None the less, the Roman lawyersdid not want to transform the aquilian lia-
bility fully into an instrumentof fair compensation. They never stopped
regardingthe dutyto pay compensationas a poena.41Thus, theynever aban-
doned the old, purelypenal rules of joint liabilityor passive intransmissibility
of liability,42and if the creditorof a stipulatiokilledthe stipulatedanimal, he
was liable to his partner,althoughthe periculumhad alreadypassed to him.43
The reason for such decisions mightpartlyconsist in the authorityof tradi-
tional rules. The main aspect,however,is probablyto be foundin a continuing
need for means of private sanction and retaliation.Vengeance remained an
accepted part of Roman public morality,44and therewas no effectivepublic
prosecution of minor offences like physical injuryor damage to property
beforethe 3rd centuryAD.45 Correspondingly, it is not beforethe postclassical
law thatpenal sanction and compensation,actionescriminales and actionesciv-
iles,are clearlydistinguished.46Thus, all in all compensationhad forlong to be
granted within an instrumentof private law tailored for problems of just
revengeand adequate sanction.

B. European ius commune


Since the receptionofthe Roman law, theAquilian conceptshave framedEuro-
pean thinkingabout extracontractualliability.This is not only true for the
continent47--in England, earlyon, Bracton had explained tortiousliabilityfor
trespassin the aquilian terminologyof iniuria.48He could do so easilybecause
the law of tortsof 13th centuryEngland resembledthe earlyRoman law by
being primarilyconcernedwithredressfora personalinjurywithoutdrawinga
precisedistinctionbetweencriminaland privatewrongsand withoutbeing gov-
ernedby a clear idea of faircompensation.49

39Above n 24.
40 Thus, wherea memberof a
troupof actorsor musicianswas killed,or a horse thatformedpart of a chariot
team,also the loss ofvalue of the othermembersofthe groupwas takenintoaccount: Paul. D. 9, 2, 22, 1; Gai. 3,
212; Inst. 4, 3, 10. Later it was generallyheld thatthevictimcould claim his interest (Ulp. D. 9, 2, 21, 2: ethociure
utimur, uteiusquodinterest fiataestimatio),moreconcretely, his damnumemergens as well as thelucrumcessans:Paul.
D. 9, 2, 33 pr.: etamisissedicemur, quodaut consequi potuimusaut erogarecogimur.
41 lul. D. 9, 2, 51, 2: cumnequeimpunita maleficiaesseoportebat;Ulp. D. 47, 2, 50, 4: nondebetimpunitus esselusus
tamperniciosus; Gai. 3, 202: perlegemAquiliam.... etiamculpapuniatur.
42Above nn 29 f.
43
Pap. D. 9, 2, 54; forthepassingofrisksee Zimmermann,Obligations above n 24 at 281 ff.
44 W. Kunkel, Untersuchungen zur Entwicklung des rdmischenKriminalverfahrens in vorsullanischer
Zeit (1962) at
124 ff.
45Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 207 ff.,227 ff.
46 Kaser, Privatrecht II above n 29 at 426.
47H. Coing, EuropiischesPrivatrecht (1985/88) vol I at 503 ff.,508 ff.;Zimmermann,Obligations above n 24 at
1017 ff.
48 H. de Bracton,De Legibuset Consuetudinibus Angliae,vol II (S.E. Thorne [transl.],Bractonand theLaws of
England(1968)), fol. 155-155 b (at 437-39); cf.Ibbetson,Obligations above n 3 at 16, 100.
49Ibbetson,Obligations above n 3 at 1 f., 13 ff.

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AUTUMN 2004 Dutiesand RightsinNegligence 451

However,by the 15th and 16th centurypunishmentand compensationwere


clearlydifferent things.50Thus, European lawyershad to transform the penal
actiolegisAquiliae into a compensatoryactiode damnodato. The developments
connectedwiththistransformation have oftenbeen described51; theyneed only
be recordedhere. On the one hand, the old rulesof cumulativeliabilityand pas-
sive intransmissibility were abolished; and on the otherhand, the lex Aquilia
became the basis fora more or less broad 'generalclause' of delictualliability.
Thus, whereforexample a freemanwas killed,compensationwas grantedfor
loss of income,52althoughthishad in Roman law been excluded by the maxim
liberum corpusnullamrecipit aestimationem.53
More interestingly, the Roman rules had to be squared withGermanicideas
about individualresponsibility. WhereEnglishlawyerswerefreeto use an object-
ive languageof 'causation' fordescribinga far-reaching (althoughneverabsolute)
responsibility,54 continental and Scottishlawyers had to expresssimilarideas in
aquilian terms." The idea of a culpalevissima,56'slightestfault'57orfautes... si
lIgeresqu'ellespuissentetre58 seemed to be an adequate device forthis,and the
examplesgiven show clearlythat theywere not speakingabout standardsofreas-
onable behaviour:Domat had expressedthe opinion thatfirecould not escape
but forsomeone's fault;59and in Germanyit was taughtthatdroppinga teacup
because one was frightened by a shotwould countas culpalevissima.60 Heineccius
explained that only 'arch-skinflintswith a thousand eyes'61could be sufficiently
careful,'who cannotsleep quietlybeforetheyhave fingeredat all bolts and locks

50 H. Conrad, DeutscheRechtsgeschichte, vol. I, Friihzeitund Mittelalter(2nd edn, 1962) at 168 ff.,448 ff.;
H. Kaufmann,Rezeptionund UsusModernusderLex Aquilia (1958) at 119 ff.
51 G. Rotondi, 'Dalla "Lex Aquilia" all'art. 1151 Cod. Civ.' in ScrittiJuridici,vol 2 (1922) at 465, 501
ff.;Kaufmann,Lex Aquilia above n 50, passim,esp. at 46 ff.,104 ff.;Zimmermann,Obligations above n 24 at 1018
ff.;Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 289 ff.;see also the contributionsofJ. Hallebeek, 'Negligencein Medieval
Roman Law' (at 73 ff.), H. Dondorp, 'Crime and Punishment'(at 101 ff.),R. Feenstra,'Grotius' doctrineof
liabilityfornegligence'(at 129 ff.) and H.L. MacQueen & W.D.H. Sellar, 'Historyof Negligencein Scots Law'
(at 273 ff.)in E.J.H. Schrage(ed.), Negligence (2001).
52Kaufmann,lexAquilia above n 50 at 34 ff.;Zimmermann,Obligations above n 24 at 1025.
53 Gai. D. 9, 3, 7.
54Ibbetson,Obligations above n 3 at 58 ff.
5 For the developmentin the Frenchcoutsimes and in some earlyGermanlaw books replacingolderconceptsby
the idea of-presumed!-fault see B. Winiger,La responsabilitg aquilienneen droitcommun.DamnumCulpa Datum
(2002) at 123 ff.,128 ff.,140 ff.
56J.Brunnemann,Commentarius in Pandectas(Coloniae Allobrogum1752), ad D. 9, 2, 44, nn 1 ff.;J.G. Heinec-
cius, Elementaiuriscivilissecundumordinem Institutionum (Lipsiae 1766), 5 1081; Struve,Syntagmajurisprudentiae
above n 5, D. 9, 2, exerc.XIV, 55 19 f.; J. Voet, Commentarius ad Pandectas(Halae 1778), lib. IX, tit.II, ? 13;
H6pfner, Theoretisch-practischer Commentar above n 5, 5? 1046, 1060; C.F. Gliick, Ausfiihrliche Erlduterung der
PandektennachHellfeld(Erlangen 1797 ff.),? 705 (vol 10 at 385); fordetailsS. Stryk,(Disputatio)De damnorebus
alienisliciteillatoin Dissertationum juridicarum Francofurtensium, vol 5 (Francofurti1744) at 122 ff.,cap. I, nn 62 f.;
cap. VIII, nn 3 ff.;Specimenususmodernipandectarum (Halae Magdeburgicae1723), lib.IX, tit.,II, ? 14.
57'Smallestfaultor neglect'and 'slightestfault';cf.H.L. MacQueen & W.D.H. Sellar,'Negligence'in K. Reid &
R. Zimmermann(eds), A HistoryofPrivateLaw in Scotland,vol 2, Obligations (2000) at 517, 524 ff.,further refer-
ences within.
58 J. Domat, Les Loix civilesdans leurordrenaturel,le droitpublicet legumdelectus(Paris 1777), partI, liv. II, tit.
VIII, sect.4, ? 1.
59Ibid, partI, liv. II, tit.VIII, sect.4, ? 6.
60N.H. Gundling,DiscourseiiberDie siimtlichen Pandecten(Frankfurt and Leipzig 1748), lib. IX, tit.II, ? 2.
61J.G. Heineccius,Recitationes in Elementajuriscivilissecundum ordinemInstitutionum(Leovardiae et Franquerae
1773), ??786 f.: Eucliones,quibusmilleocculisunt.

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452 JournalofLegal Studies
Oxford VOL.24
at the houses ensuringthat everything is closed'.62 Of course, such ridiculous
behaviourwas not obligatory,and the Spanish naturallawyerMolina, who was
generallyregardedas an authority in thispoint,63had explainedthe ratioof this
liabilityveryclearlyas 'quasi-contractual'.64 Sometimes,it was not forbiddento
a
pursue dangerous action, but it was forbidden to do so withoutimplicitlyagree-
to
ing compensate the victims in case of an accident.65
It was not beforethe 20th centurythatthis idea has been formulatedmore
clearlyby Ehrenzweig:extracontractual liability,he argued,should be based on
the contractualrule that he found expressedin Hadley v Baxendale:66nobody
should be allowed to avoid liabilityfor the foreseeableharm caused by his
activities.
Herethecontemplation testmaybe relatedto a hypothetical
"agreement"betweenthe
entrepreneurand thestate,underwhichtheenterprise or "licensed"in
is permitted
spiteofitsknowndangerous nature, oftheassumption
in consideration offullliability
forthose,andonlythose,damageswhichmayreasonably be supposedto havebeenin
thecontemplationofbothpartiesat thetimetheymadethecontract,thatis,whenthe
"license"wasgranted.67

Liabilityin negligence,as has been the positionbeforethe 19th centuryand,


again, in the 20th century,mightbe independentof any unlawfulbehaviour.
Culpa levissimaand moderndutiessometimesdescribea standardof care thatis
necessaryfor avoiding liability-withouthoweverbeing obligatoryin a strict
sense. Oftenthiswas indirectlyexpressedby qualifyingnegligenceunclearlyas
a 'quasi-delict',68a damagingevent resemblinga delict withoutamountingto
a real wrong.
It may be doubted-as it was-whether the aquilian conceptsof iniuriaand
culpafitin well withsuch an understandingof negligencewithoutunlawfulness.
ChristianThomasius, forexample,realized that the actiode damnodato of his
timehad not much morein commonwiththe Roman actiolegisAquiliaethanits
basic concepts;he thereforearguedthatthe 'Aquilian mask should be tornoff

62 Ibid, AcademischeReden iiberDesselbenElementaiuriscivilissecundumordinemInstitutionum (Frankfurtund


Leipzig 1748), 55786 f.: 'welche nicht eher ruhen k6nnen,bis sie alle Riegel und Schl6sser an den Hiusern
betastet,und gesehenhaben, ob alles zugeschlossenist'.
63 As such he is cited, e.g., by Struve,Syntagmajurisprudentiae above n 63, D. 9, 2, exerc.XIV, 5 20, or
Brunnemann,Commentarius in Pandectasabove n 56, ad D. 9, 2, 44, nn 1 and 5.
64L. Molina, De iustitaetiure(Moguntiae 1659), tract.II, disp.698, n 3: liabilityratione pacti,seuquasipacti.
65 Ibid, tract.
II, disp.698, nn 3 f.;cf.also R.P.L. Lessius,De iustitiaetiure(Venetiis1734), lib.II, cap.,VII, dub.VI.
66(1854) 9 Exch
341, 156 ER 145.
67 A. Fault (1951) at 53.
Ehrenzweig,Negligence Without
68 Heineccius,Elementa above n 61, 5 1112; W.A. Lauterbach,
iuriscivilisabove n 56, ?? 1034, 1081; id., Recitationes
Collegium theoretico-practicum (Tubingae 1734), lib.IX, tit.II ?3, lib.XLVII, tit.I, ? 8. In France (R.J.Pothier,Traite
desobligations (ceuvres, vol I, Paris 1824), nn 116 f.; cf. also Domat, Loix civiles[n 58], partI, liv. II, tit.VIII: Des
dommages causespar desfautesqui ne vontpas d un crime,ni d un delit)and in Scotland thiswas the prevailingopin-
ion: D. Visser& N. Whitty'The StructureoftheLaw of Delict in HistoricalPerspective'in Reid & Zimmermann,
PrivateLaw in ScotlandII above n 57 at 422, 451 ff.;H.L. MacQueen & W.D.H. Sellar,'Negligence',ibid (Reid &
Zimmermann)at 525, further references within.Correspondingly, thestrictRoman quasidelictscould be explained
as liabilityforfault;see Heineccius,Recitationes, 51112: factaillicita,sola culpa,sinedoloadmissa;cf. R. Hochstein,
Obligationes quasi ex delicto(1971) at 71 ff.,78 ff.,110 ff.

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AUTUMN 2004 Dutiesand Rightsin Negligence 453
the action fordamage done'.69On the same line of argumentotherswantedto
award damages according to Germanic principlesbecause they regardedthe
actiolegisAquiliaeas not receivedintothe iuscommune.70However,none ofthese
opinionsprevailed,the reasonsfortheirlack of success being twofold.First,the
lawyersof the ususmodernus werenormallynot interestedin theoreticaldebates.
They happilyapplied the revisedprinciplesof the actiode damnodato and dis-
cussed it in the inheritedterminologyof the lexAquilia.And second, the leading
naturallaw theorywas introducinga new model of delictualliabilitythatdid in
fact harmonizewell with the Roman concepts. Before this can be explained,
however,the normativebasis forthe model of the ususmodernus should be dis-
cussed: ifliabilityin negligencewas not based on unlawfulaction,it musthave
had anothermoralbasis.

3. Rightsand Liability
Iniuria-and likewisewrong-areintriguingly complexand ambiguousconcepts.
In thecontextofthelexAquilia,iniuriahad an adverbialmeaning:an actioncom-
mittediniuriawas an actionviolatinga dutyofbehaviour.Wrongcan be used in a
similarsense: a person behavingwrongfully is a person actingcontraryto law.
However,theseconceptsmay likewisebe used objectively:iniuriam faceremeans
committinga wrongagainstanotherperson;71and when used in thatway, the
conceptsiniuriaand wrongmayeitherindicatea harmcommittedby an unlawful
actionor a harmwhichthevictimdoes not need to sufferwithoutcompensation.
In thatway it may indeed be said thatunderthe tortof Rylandsv Fletcher com-
pensationis owed fora wrongwithoutan unlawfulactionbeingpresent.72
Neitherthe layman'slanguagenor earlylaw clearlydistinguishthesedifferent
meaningsof iniuriaand wrong.Thus, whenBractonexplainedtheEnglishlaw of
tortsin termsof aquilian iniuriahe sometimesused the conceptas a predicateof
an action73and sometimesin its objective,outcome-orientated meaning.74In
thatlatterway it musthave been used also withinthe ususmodernus. Thomasius
clearlyargued from such a standpoint75and the usus modernus-conception of
culpalevissima,negligence without unlawfulaction,likewisepresupposes such an

69This is the titleof his dissertationLarva legisAquiliae detractaactionide damnodato (Halae Magdeburgicae
1750), editedand translatedby M. Hewett (2000).
70J. Schilter,PraxislurisRomaniin Foro Germanico(Francfurtiet Lipsiae 1713), exerc.XIX, 5 67; J.G. Heinec-
cius, ElementaiuriscivilissecundumordinemInstitutionum (Lipsiae 1766), ? 1095; Academische Redenabove n 61,
? 1095; H6pfner,Theoretisch-practischer Commentar above n 5, ? 1060.
71 There was a special tortiniuriain Roman law thatconcernedwrongsto a person.
72It is thereforemisleadingto explain such cases as
wrongswithoutfault(but see P. Birks,'The Concept of
a Civil Wrong' in D.G. Owen (ed.), Philosophical Foundationsof TortLaw (1995) at 31, 41 f.): the real problemis
a logicallypriorone: it concernsthe questionof unlawfulness.
73Bracton,De legibusabove n 48, fol. 155 (at 437): Est sciendum quodiniuriaestomnequodnoniurefit.
74 Ibid, fol. 155 (at 438): Qualiterquispatituriniuriam;fol. 155 b (at 439): Est quideminiurialeviset estatrox.
Atrocitas veroaestimatur ex ipsofacto,utsi quisfueritmalevulneratus.
75Thomasius, Larva legisAquiliae above n 69, ?? 12, 19, 29; see also Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 311,
343 ff.

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454 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

understanding.It was howevernot explained doctrinallyforwhich reason an


outcomeshouldbe judged an iniuriaifit was not caused by an unlawfulaction.

A. AbsoluteRightsand theMaxim ofalterumnon laedere


Humanistlawyerssuch as Hugo Donellus used the terminiuriain an outcome-
orientatedmeaning, too. Donellus wanted to systemizethe Roman law of
actions on the basis of a systemof absolute subjectiverights,and he therefore
understoodiniuriaas indicatingan unjustifiedinfringement of such a right.76
Thus, an actioncould be judged as an iniuriaforthe onlyreasonthatit infringed
an absolute subjectiveright.In order to explain this Donellus conceptualized
these rightsas prohibitionsagainstan infringement into the right-holder'spro-
tectedsphere.7 Individualrightsbecame the correspondingsubjectiveaspect of
Ulpians' objectivelyformulatedrule of alterumnon laedere.78 In such a model
rightsgive riseto legal duties,and the violationof theseduties leads to-second-
of
ary-obligations liability. It follows thatrightscannot be understood as basis
for strictliabilityor forstandardsof care beyond genuine legal duties. Thus,
Donellus' rightsweresurelyhelpfulforsystemizing thelaw ofdelict;but norma-
tivelythey did not add anything to the traditional
Roman understanding ofaqui-
lian liability.79

B. Omnis restitutiofundaturin dominio


However, ideas substantiallyenrichingthe theoryof tortiousliabilitywere
developed at the same timein the Spanish naturallaw school of Salamanca. Its
theologiansdeveloped quasi-legal systemsforthe practiceof the ecclesiastical
confessionand penance."sThey explainedextracontractual obligationsof com-
pensation within the aristotelian-thomistic
doctrineof restitutio
thatwas an over-
archingtheoryincluding both claims
restitutionary for unjustifiedenrichment
and claims in tortlaw. Normativelyrestitutio
was an act restoringthe disturbed
equalitybetweenthe claimantand the defendant.The latterhad to restorethe
claimant'sloss iftherewas an inequalitybetweenthe parties-this was the basic
idea; and such an inequalitycould result either from the defendantbeing
enrichedbytheclaimant'sloss (restitutio
because ofthedefendanthavingwhatwas
due to the claimant)or fromthe defendant'sresponsibility forthe victim'sloss
because of the defendanthavingtakenwhatwas due to the claimant).81
(restitutio
?4.
76 H. Donellus, Commentarii de iurecivili(Opera Omnia,Lucae 1762), lib.II, cap. VIII,
77 Ibid, lib.II, cap. VIII, ? 2; lib.II, cap. I, 10.
?
78 Ulp. D. 1, 1, 10, 1.
79See, moredetailed,Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 324 ff.,327, withfurther
references.
8oJ. Gordley,ThePhilosophical OriginsofModernContractDoctrine(1991) at 68 ff.;further referencesin Jansen,
'Die KorrekturgrundloserVerm6gensverschiebungen als Restitution?Zur Lehre von der ungerechtfertigten
bei
Bereicherung Savigny' 120 (2003) Zeitschrift derSavigny-Stiftung fiirRechtsgeschichte
(romanistische
Abteilung)
(SZ) 106, 132 ff.
rationerei acceptaeand restitutio
81 Restitutio
rationeacceptionis:Thomas von Aquin, Summa theologica, secunda
secundaepartis,qu. 62, art.7 f.

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AUTUMN 2004 Duties and Rightsin Negligence 455

For bothaspectsitwas centralto determine preciselywhatwas due to theclaimant,


and thiswas achievedby a theoryofpropertyrightsbroadlyunderstood:82 omnis
restitutio in as
fundatur dominio, Vitoria,83 the school's foundingfather, wrote.
Thus, the concept of an individualrightgave expressionto the idea thatgoods
are allocated to individualsas theirown belongings,and that this allocation
should be protectedas effectively as possible by the law,84restitutio being the
prime part of this protection.Being dependant on the concept of a property
right,ithad a similarstatusas the vindicatio(fromwhichitwas not clearlydistin-
guished),85and thus therewas no systematicneed to regardthe dutyof com-
pensationas a sanction.It was owed simplybecause of the responsibility forthe
infringement of an individualright.As such it was-in principle-independent
oftheviolationof a legal duty.Addressingthe ambiguityin the conceptofnegli-
gence as explained in the introduction,Molina made clear that it was the
infringement upon a right(damnum),not the wrongfulbehaviour (iniuriaor
offensa)thatgave riseto the claim forcompensation.86
This was the nucleus of all laterrights-conceptions of liability.It gave expres-
sion to values entrenchedin the much older concept of an outcome-related
iniuria.The consequences of thisunderstandingwere,however,not developed
in more detail. As theologians,the Spanish naturallawyerswere primarilycon-
cerned withsins, and forthis of course a culpable action (normallyeven culpa
lata87) was a precondition.Thus Molina's theoryof culpa levissimawas not
meant to be applied withinecclesiasticalpractice-it was valid onlyin positive
secular law. Thereforetherewas no need to connect it more closelywiththe
naturallaw theoryof restitutio. None the less Molina did emphasizethatliability
forculpa levissimawas a genuinedutyof restitutio.88 For him,it gave expression
to the idea of completelyprotectingthe individualallocationof goods by means
of absolute subjectiverights.Thus, it followsthat both (Molina's explanation
of) the usus-modernus-conception of culpa levissimaand the connectedobjective
concept of iniuriawere ultimatelyrooted in a theoryof fundamentalproperty
rights.

82
The conceptof dominium was also includingpersonalrights;cf.Thomas von Aquin, ibid, qu. 61, art.3; F. de
Vitoria,Commentaria in secundamsecundae(ed. byV. Beltrande Heredia, Dejustitia(1934 ff.)),qu. LXII, art.I, nn
50-53; Molina, De iustitaetiureabove n 64, tract.II, disp.714, beforen 1. Onlyoutsidethetheoryofrestitution this
was oftendoubted because these rightswere seen as inalienable:D. de Soto, De iustitiaet iure(1556, reprinted
1968), lib. IV, qu. II, art.III, at Prima and Tertia conclusio.But also Soto wantedto grantcompensationeven for
pain and suffering: ibid,lib.IV, qu. VI, art.III, at Ex hisfitconsequens.
83Vitoria,Commentariain secundamsecundaeabove n 82, qu. LXII, art. I, n 6; he therebyeven departedfrom
the systemestablishedby Thomas: ibid, qu. LXII, nn 6 ff.;cf. G. Otte, Das Privatrecht bei Vitoria(1964) at 41.
84Cf. above section1D.
85R. Feenstra,'Grotius'DoctrineofUnjust Enrichmentas a Source of Obligation:itsOriginand itsInfluencein
Roman-DutchLaw' in E.J.H. Schrage (ed.), UnjustEnrichment. TheComparativeLegal HistoryoftheLaw ofRestitu-
tion(2nd edn, 1999) at 197, 209.
86Molina, iustitaabove n 64, tract.II, disp.715, nn 6, 9.
87Cf. Lessius, De iustitiaetiureabove n 87, lib.II, cap. VII, dub.VI.
88 It was thereforeconceived as positive, secular law; see for all Molina, iustitiaabove n 64, tract.II, disp.

717, n 2.

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456 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

4. Grotiusand theNaturalLaw School


Hugo Grotiusis thepivotalfigureforthe further theoreticaldevelopmentofthe
law of torts.In his writings,whichare deeplyinfluencedby humanisticwriters
withinthe Roman tradition,like Donellus,89 as well as by the Spanish natural
law school,90he aimed at integrating both lines ofthoughtinto one overarching
theory. This was however no simple task, and thus he providesus with two
differentconceptions of delictual liability.The differences betweenthese con-
ceptions clearly indicate the problems both of his project and of the modem
of
understanding negligence.

A. AbsoluteIndividualRights
In the Inleidinge,
his main work on privatelaw, Grotius explainedthe positive
Roman-Dutchlaw ofthe 17thcentury, and-unlike mostofhis contemporaries-
he did so independentlyof the Roman formsof action. He was therefore freeto
develop a theoryofhis own,and in thishe made extensiveuse ofSpanishnatural
law doctrine.Thus the basic organizingelementof his systemis a conceptof an
absolute individualright(dominium)borrowedfromthe school of Salamanca.91
It followsthat everyunjustifiedinfringement upon such a rightconstitutesan
iniuriagivingrise to a claim forcompensation.Converselyif no such rightis
violatedtherecan be no loss (damnum)recoverablein law.92
By adoptingthisapproach,Grotiuswas able to interpret the differenttortsof
the Roman-Dutch law as sources of obligationscorrectinga disturbedequality
betweena tortfeasor and his victim,93and he understoodthisinequalityas a vio-
lationofan absoluteindividualright.94 Correspondinglyhe structuredthediffer-
ent tortsof the Roman-Dutch law accordingto his theoryof fivefundamental
rights.95Aftera generalintroductioninto delictualliability,wrongsagainstlife
and health,individualliberty,honour and propertyare explainedin turn.96In
thisway, Grotiuswas the firstto explain the practiceof awardingdamages in
case of homicide as purelycompensatory:97 it correcteda disturbedequality.
Thus, Grotiuscould ensure a compensatoryclaim foreverycase of wrongfully
infringing upon a fundamentalright.What is more, in the Inleidinghe clearly
thoughtof a liabilitywithoutwrongdoing.Thus he proposed a liabilityfordam-
ages caused by one's things-probablylayingthe groundforthemodem French

89P. Stein,'The Fate ofthe InstitutionalSystem'in TheCharacterand Influence oftheRomanCivilLaw (1988) at


73, 77; H. Coing, 'Zur Geschichtedes Begriffs'SubjektivesRecht" in Gesammelte Aufsdtzezur Rechtsgeschichte,
RechtsphilosophieundZivilrecht, vol I (1982) at 241, 254.
90Feenstra,in Schrage,Negligence above n 51 at 132 ff.
91Cf. Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 328 ff.
92 Grotius,De iurebelliac
pacis libritres(Amsterdami1642), lib.II, cap. XVII, ? 2.
93 Id., Inleidingtotde HollandscheRechtsgeleertheyd (transl.and ed. by R.W. Lee (1926)), boeckII, deel 1, ?? 8
and 10.
94 Ibid, boeckIII, deel32, %?2 ff.
95 Ibid, boeckII, deel1,?%41 sqq.
96Ibid, boeckIII, deel32 (generalintroduction)and 33-37 (specifictorts).
97Feenstra,in Schrage,Negligence above n 51 at 133, 144 ff.

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AUTUMN2004 Duties and Rightsin Negligence 457

gardien-liabilityforfaitsdeschoses;98 and on the same line he suggested-contrary


to thepracticeofRoman-Dutchlaw99-thattheownerofa house shouldbe liable
forfireescapingfromhis land even ifthathad happened withouthis fault.'00
Thus, all in all we can see a theoryoffundamentalrightsleadingto a theoryof
liabilitythatis systematically independentof the violationof legal duties. As a
directconsequence of this assumption'o'Grotiuseven advocated in his De iure
belliac pacis thatthereshould be liabilityfordamages caused in a stateof justi-
fied necessity,102althoughthiswas whollycontraryto doctrineand practiceof
the ususmodernus.'03

B. Duties and Culpa


This obligationof compensationdid not howeverfitin well withthegeneralpic-
tureof tortiousliabilityas offeredin De iurebelliac pacis,Grotius'main workon
natural law. Here, rightsare primarilyunderstoodas a basis for prohibitions
againstinterfering withthe protectedinterest.Correspondingly thebasic idea of
torttheoryseems to consistin the dutyof compensationbeing a secondaryduty
attachedto theviolationoffirstorderdutiesofbehaviour:ex taliculpa (not from
a loss or damnum)obligationaturaliter oritursi damnumdatumest,nempeut id
This was the first'generalclause' of liabilityforfault;and it was
resarciatur.104
not only a strikingly simple model of liabilityintegrating the different Roman
tortsinto one single formula,but also appeared as intuitively plausible. Why
should a tortfeasor not be liable when he was intentionally or carelesslycausing
loss (damnum)to his neighbour?'05
However,therewas no room forthe otherfundamentalaspect of the idea of
protectingfundamentalrightscompletely:ifno dutyof behaviourwas violated,
therewas-within thenew system-no reasonforimposingliability.Thus, in De
iurebelliac pacis Grotiusarguesthattheremustbe no liabilitywithoutthe tort-
feasor'sfault,and consequentlyhe rejectsboth the quasi-delictualliabilityfor
animals and employeesand the rule of loss sharingin average.106Accordingto
thisnew position,these pocketsof liabilityare establishedonlyby positivelaw
withoutrestingon naturallaw principles.His earlier-convincing-arguments
forstrictliabilityseem to be forgotten.107
98 For thisC.von Bar, EuropeanLaw ofTortsabove n 5, vol I, nn 106 ff.;vol II, nn 315 ff.

99C.G. Van derMerwe,'Erscheinungsformen verschuldensunabhaingiger Haftung'in R. Feenstra& R. Zimmermann


(eds), Das rimisch-holldndische Recht.Fortschritte
desZivilrechts im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert (1992) at 455, 479.
100Grotius,Inleidingabove n 93, boeckIII, deel38, ? 2.
101Cf. above n Grotius
9; arguesthata personin necessitywouldn'tneed an unrestricted rightof infringement
withouta dutyof compensation,the compensationbeing the price forthe permissionof infringing upon another
person'srights;see Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 336.
102Grotius,De iurebelliac pacis above n 92, lib.II, cap. II, 5?6, 9; lib.III, cap. XII, 5 1 (n 1).
103Stryk,De damnorebusalienisliciteillatoabove n ad Pandectas
56, cap. III, nn 69 ff.,79 ff.;Voet, Commentarius
above n 56, lib.IX, tit.II, ? 28.
104Grotius,De iurebelliac pacis above n 92, lib.II, cap. XVII, 51.
105Grotiusprobablyregardedonly detriments to rightsas a damnum;but thisbecomes onlyapparentfromthe
widerrestitutionary backgroundofhis theory;see Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 331 ff.
106Ibid, lib.II, cap. XVII, 521.
107There is no discussionof thesecases in De iurebelliac pacis.

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458 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

C. Compensationas Sanction
Grotiusneverjustifiedhis theoreticalmove fromthe earlierrights-model to the
second culpa-or duty-modelof liability.It was probablythe latter'ssimplicity
thatmade it so attractive.His theoryof naturallaw as exposed in De iurebelliac
pacis was not addressed specificallyto lawyersor academics; it was writtenfor
the educated modern man.s08 Thereforeit had to formulateeasily accessible
guidelinesforthebehaviourof citizens;it was not meantto offera completepic-
ture of the complexitiesof privatelaw. Therefore,simplicityand systematic
coherencebecame the primecriteriafora convincingtheory,naturallaw being,
by definition, a reasonablesystemof civilduties.
Thus it comes as no surprisethatthe duty-modelprovedto be the more suc-
cessful.'09Pufendorfmade it the cornerstoneof his theoryof extracontractual
liability"oand he supplementedit by a firmfunctionalfoundation.Civilliability,
he argued,was a privatesanctionnecessaryin orderto ensurecompliancewith
dutiesof care thatwerenot penalized criminally.11' Deterrencehad become the
aim of claims fordamages; the old Thomistic ideas of restoringequalityand
ensuringfaircompensationwere,at best,secondary.
It followedthat there must be no delictual standardsof care beyond real
behaviouralduties. Pufendorftherefore reinterpretedthe traditionalculpa levis-
sima as a breachof strict,but none the less genuinedutiesof care,112 and he was
the firstto formulatetheaxiomaticcharacterofthefaultprinciple:"13ifliabilityis
regardedas a privatelaw sanction,thisdoes indeed follow.Jhering would later
emphasize that theremust be no punishment without fault when defendingthe
faultprincipleforthe law of delict.1"4And Nettelbladt,one of the most influen-
tial late naturallawyers,'115had even treatedthe law of delictwithinhis iurispru-
dentiacriminalis.116

5. Enlightenment
and EconomicLiberalism
All in all, rightshad seeminglylost theirsystematicfunctionas fundamental,
immediatenormativereasonsforliability:dutiesof compensationhad systemat-
ically become second order duties dependent on the violation of firstorder

108Gordley,ModernContract
Doctrineabove n 80 at 129 ff.
109 A major reason for this consistsprobablyalso in the Inleidingbecoming a book of authorityonly forthe
Roman-Dutchlaw; cf. R. Feenstra,in Stolleis,Juristen above n 26 at 259 ff.
110
S. Pufendorf,De iurenaturaeetgentiumlibriocto(Francofurtiet Lipsiae 1759) lib. III, cap. I, ?52 sqq.; De
officiohominisetcivisiuxtalegemnaturalem libriduo (Cantabrigiae1682) lib.I, cap. VI, ?? 4 ff.
" De
above n 110, lib.I, cap. VI, ? 4.
iurenaturaeabove n 110, lib. III, cap. I, ? 2; De officio
?
12 De iurenaturaeabove n 110, lib. III, cap. I, 6: saepeparticulari ex obligationequis ad accuratamdiligentiam
adhibendam cf.also ibid,lib.I, cap. V, ? 15; lib.I, cap. VII, ? 1.
adstringatur;
113De iurenaturaeabove n 110, lib.I, cap. V, 55: axiomain moralibus.
114
'Kein Uebel ohne Schuld': R.von Jhering, Das Schuldmoment imRimischenPrivatrecht (1867) at 8, 60 ff.and
passim.
115Even ifhe is todaynearlyforgotten; cf.T. Repgenin Stolleis,Juristen above n 26 at 455 ff.
116 D. Nettelbladt,Systemaelementare universaeiurisprudentiae naturalisin usumpraelectionum academicarum
adornatum(5th edn, Halle 1785) ??975 ff.

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AUTUMN 2004 Dutiesand Rightsin Negligence 459
duties of behaviour.The 'fault-principle'acquired an axiomaticstatus,117 and
not onlyin civillaw.118Thus, on the one hand extracontractual for
liability culpa
levissimawas generallyabolished,119and liabilityforquasi-delictsrestricted;120
on the otherhand, everyinjuryto individualgoods was sanctionedifcaused by
fault.This duty-modelof liabilitywas dominantnot onlyin academic theorybut
likewisein legislationand before(English)courts.Duties in negligencebecame a
question of reasonable standards of behaviour from a prospectivepoint of
view'21 (echoed by modern economic doctrine);122 theywere no longerretro-
spectivejudgementsabout individualresponsibility.'23
This duty-modelwas not onlysuccessfulbecause of itssimplicity and intuitive
plausibility.The Germanhistoricschool supportedit strongly because it fittedin
wellwiththe Roman conceptsof delict,124and in Englandthe 'riseof negligence'
withits centralfocus on dutieswas in largepart a resultof proceduralreasons.
Duties werea questionoflaw, and judgeswantedto restrainthe influenceofthe

117Motive,in B. Mugdan, Die gesamten Materialienzum BGB (1899) vol II at 15: 'h6heresjuristischesAxiom'
see beforevon Jhering, Schuldmoment above n 114 at 40 ff.;L. Arndts,R.von Arnesberg,LehrbuchderPandekten
(L. Pfaffund F. Hofmann,eds) (14th edn, 1889) %?85 f. (at 141, 142 f.); H. Dernburg,Pandekten, vol I (1884) ?
86 (at 194); G.F. Puchta, Vorlesungen iiberdas heutiger6mischeRecht,vol II, (ed. A.A.F. Rudorff) (3rd edn, 1852)
??264-7 (at 90); A.F.J.Thibaut, SystemdesPandekten-Rechts, vol I (6th edn, Jena 1823) ? 250 (at 192); C.G.von
Wichter,Handbuchdes imKdnigreiche Wiirttemberg geltendenPrivatrechts,vol II (Stuttgart1842) at 790: 'Wo kein
Verschuldenist,beginntdas Gebiet des Zufalls'.
118 For the commonlaw see Ibbetson,Obligations above n 3 at 153 ff.,164 ff.,emphasizingthenaturallaw influ-
ence of authorslikePufendorf.
119Thus, in the Prussian (ALR) and Austrian(ABGB) civil codes delictual liabilityfor culpa levissimawas
abolished; and thiswas generallyseen as a severe restrictionof liability;cf. G.A. Bielitz,Praktischer Kommentar
zum allgemeinen Landrechtefiir diepreuf3ischen Staaten (Erfurt1823 ff.)vol II at 7; C.W. Ludwig, Erlduterung der
Rechts-Theorie vomSchadens-Ersatzaus unerlaubten Handlungen,vomBesitz (etc.) nach den GrundlagendesAllge-
meinenPreuJf. Landrechtsin Verbindung mitdemRam. Rechte,ErsterTheil(Glogau 1812) at 15 f.; L. Pfaff,'Zur
Lehre vom Schadenersatz und Genugthuungnach 6sterreichischemRecht' 8 (1881) GriinhZat 613, 702;
F.von Zeiller, Commentar iiberdas allgemeine Gesetzbuch,
biirgerliche DritterBand, ErsteAbtheilung (Wien & Triest
1812) ? 1298, n 11. Correspondingly, J.C. Hasse had arguedthatthe Roman culpa levissimawas neverconstitut-
ing a liabilitywithouta genuinefault:Die Culpa desRdmischen Rechts( 2nd edn, Bonn: 1838) at 4, 65 ff.,90 ff.;his
theorywas shortlyafterwardsadopted by Fr. Mommsen (Beitrdgezum Obligationenrecht. Dritte und letzte
Abtheilung: Die Lehrevon dermoranebstBeitragenzur Lehrevon derculpa (1855) at 361 ff.,367 f.) and became
immediatelythe common opinion withinpandectistdoctrine:Amdts, Pandektenabove n 117, ? 86 (at 144);
Puchta, Vorlesungen II above n 117, %?264-67 (at 88 ff.,90); von Wichter, Wiirttembergisches Privatrecht II
above n 117 at 784 ff.; J.N.von Wening-Ingenheim,Lehrbuchdes GemeinenCivilrechtes (4th edn, Miinchen,
1831) vol II, ? 240 (at 134 f.); B. Windscheid,LehrbuchdesPandektenrechts (7th edn, 1891) ? 101 (at 286 ff.).In
England the same was achievedby interpreting former'stricttorts'as pressuposinga tortfeasor'sfault:Ibbetson,
Obligationsabove n 3 at 157 ff.
120Hochstein,Obligationes quasi e delictoabove n 68 at 147 ff.,151; cf.F.C.von Savigny,Das Obligationenrecht als
Theildesheutigen RimischenRechts(1853/55) vol II at 3, 330 f.,who mentionsthequasi-delictsonlybriefly.
121See veryclearly(in the 20th century)the decisionBoltonv Stone [1951] AC 850 (H.L.). PersonallyI never
could understandwhyMs Bolton was supposed to bear the costs ofhermedical treatment forthe onlyreasonthat
theywerejustifiedfromthecricket-club's pointofview:Kaldor-Hicks-efficiency is not a just criterionforthedistri-
bution of such costs. I was thus relievedhearingthat it was agreed (as possiblysuggestedby the judges) that
Ms Bolton should keep the substantialamountfordamages and coststhatshe had won beforethe Court ofAppeal
and thatshe was probablynot chargedforcosts beforethe House of Lords; see forall M. Lunney,'Six and Out?
Boltonv Stoneafter50 Years' 24 (2003) Legal History1, 10 f., 16 f.
122Thus, theynormallyarguein favourof theprospectiveLearnedHand-formula;cf.Landes & Posner, TortLaw
above n 28 at 85 ff.,123 ff.
123Ibbetson,Obligations above n 3 at 165 ff.
124PandectisticlawyerswerediscussingRoman privatepunishmentsas valid in theirtimealthoughtheywere-of
course-not applied beforethe courtsanymore;cf.von Savigny,Obligationenrecht I above n 120 at 312 ff.,317 ff.,
326 ff.;Thibaut, SystemI above n 117, ??66 ff.(at 52 ff.); G.F. Puchta,Pandekten,(ed. by A.A.F. Rudorff,9th
edn, 1863) %?230, 261 (at 356, 403).

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460 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

juries.125What is more,however,the duty-modelof liabilitycould be regarded


as givingexpressionto leadingvalues of 18thand 19thcenturyEuropean public
morality.On the one hand, this was the idea of the enlightenedmodern state
educatingitscitizens,prescribing rulesforindividualbehaviourand enforcingits
prohibitions by quasi-penal sanctions. Thus, the naturallaw-concept126 Unerlaubte
Handlungen(illicit actions) became the heading for the law of delict in the
PrussianALR'27 (and today in the BGB).128 It expressedthe idea thatprivate
law shouldformulatecivildutiesforindividualbehavioursanctionedby dutiesof
compensation.Correspondingly, the idea of liabilitydependingproportionally
on the degreeoffaultincreasingly appeared plausible.129 Under the Prussianlaw
joint intentionalwrongswere even sanctionedby cumulativeliability.130On the
otherhand-especially in the commonlaw'31-the feelingwas gainingground
that liabilityshould be predictable and that individual-economic-liberty
should not be restrictedby too narrowdutiesof compensation.As long as liabil-
ityis not insurable,thisis indeed a valid consideration.Liabilityforan accident
can thencause the tortfeasor's personalruinand thusthe threadof liabilitycan
be perceivedas restricting individualliberty;it should therefore be keptwithin
narrowbounds.132
All theseconsiderationshave clearlyinfluencedthe developmentofthe law of
negligence.However,it would be difficult to decide todaywhichofthesediffer-
ent factorsin factbecame the main reason forEurope's turnto the faultprin-
ciple,'33forthese different considerationshave become difficult to disentangle.
it is
Fortunately unnecessary to do so: it is sufficient
to be aware of thisbundleof
motivesforthe 18th and 19th century'smove to the duty-conception of negli-
gence and to realizethatnone of these different considerationsany longerpro-
vides a valid argument.Rules of individualbehaviourare increasingly laid down
in public law, and cannotbe learnedfromretrospective judgmentsabout liability
(of which, in any case, ordinarycitizenshave no knowledge) that are partly

125 See fordetailsIbbetson,Obligations above n 3 at 173 f.; "'The Law of Business Rome": Foundationsof the
Anglo-American Tort ofNegligence'52 (1999) CLP 74, 88 ff.
126The concept goes back to the
translationof C. Wolff'sInstitutiones iurisnaturaeet gentium:Grundsdtze des
Natur-und Vilckerrechts (Halle, 1754) %?87, 88.
127The headingofthesixthTitelofthefirst part(Theil)was 'Von den Pflichtenund Rechten,die aus unerlaubten
Handlungenentstehn'(about dutiesand rightsarisingfromillicitactions).
128Buch 2, Abschnitt 8, Titel27. UnerlaubteHandlungen.
129 It was adopted by the PrussianCode (%5 10 f.,85, 87 f.,99 ff.,103 ff.,112, 116 f. I 6 ALR; cf.U. Armasow,
Schaden und abgestufte Haftung (Proportionalititsprinzip) im Preussischen Allgemeinen Landrechtvon 1794 unter
Beschrdnkung hauptsdchlich aufdieunerlaubten Handlungen, Diss. Heidelberg(1975) at 137 ff.),bytheAustrianCode
(?%1324, 1331 f. ABGB; cf. H. Hausmaninger,'Roman Tort Law in theAustrianCivil Code of 1811' in Develop-
mentsin Austrianand IsraeliPrivateLaw (1999) at 113, 121), and by authorslike Glfick(Pandektenabove n 56,
8 333
130 ?
(vol. IV at 447)) and Jhering(Schuldmoment above n 114 at 54 ff.).
34 I 6 ALR.
131
G.P. Fletcher,'Fairnessand Utilityin Tort Theory',85 Harv LR 537, 564 (1972).
132Cf.
Ibbetson,Obligations above n 3, 178, forthe fellow-servant rule.
133See forthe discussionJ.Esser, Grundlagen undEntwicklung derGefdhrdungshaftung (2nd edn, 1969) at 54 ff.;
R. Ogorek, Untersuchungen zur Entwicklung der Gefdhrdungshaftung im 19. Jahrhundert (1975) passim,esp. at 35
f.,41 ff.,134 f.; H.-P. Ben6hr,'Die Entscheidungdes BGB fiirdas Verschuldensprinzip' XLVI (1978) TR 1, 11 ff.;
M. Immenhauser,"'Culpa ist gar nichtAllgemeineine causa obligationis"'in VereinJungerRechtshistorikerInnen
Zilrich(eds), Rechtsgeschichte(n) (2000) at 283, 295 ff.

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AUTUMN2004 Duties and Rightsin Negligence 461

guided by considerationsnot relatedto genuinebehaviouralduties.134Further-


more, liabilitycan nowadays be insured against: it does not thereforerestrict
individuallibertyany more thanthe impositionof a tax; and a denial ofliability
would have a symmetrical effectofrestricting
thelibertyofpotentialvictimseco-
nomically,135because theywould thenhave to bear the costofinsurance.

6. A ModernEuropeanPerspective
A. Rightsin Legal Doctrine
The move to the duty-modelwas neveraccompaniedby a completedemise of
rights.First,in some systems,especiallyin the naturallaw philosophyof Chris-
tian Wolff136and later in pandectisticdoctrine,137rightsremained indirectly
importantin the law of torts.In the same way as withinthe systemof Donellus,
theybecame a basic elementforthe reconstruction ofprivatelaw, and as a con-
ceptualbasis forcivilduties,theywere constitutive forcivilwrongs.Thus, pan-
dectisticdoctrinecould distinguishclearlytwo kindsof unlawfulnessgivingrise
to a claim under the actiolegisAquiliae:the infringement of an individualright
and theviolationof a dutyofpositivelaw.138This has laterbecome themodel of
the BGB, too.139Ironically,rights-once a normativebasis forextracontractual
claimsof compensation-had become in effecta limitforliabilityand were,dur-
ing the 20th century,increasinglyperceivedas such.'40
Second, however,ever sincethe duty-conceptionofnegligencehad become the
prevailingopinion within Pufendorf's there
theory,141 had been right-conceptions
of liabilityofferedas counter-models:Thomasius' attemptto tear the Aquilian
maskofftheactiode damnodato'42was thefirstofthesealternative conceptions.143
For many it comes as a surprisethat among his successors was Immanuel
Kant,'44 whose somewhat sketchyideas were developed shortlythereafter in

134An exampleis thebetteropportunity or dutyto insure;see also in moredetailbelow section6E.


135Thus the question of restriction of libertynormallybecomes the question of who should insureagainstthe
accidentsin question;cf.Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 66 ff.
136 Wolff, Grundsdtze des Natur- und Vdlckerrechts above n 126, ?? 43 ff., 62, 87 f.; for details Jansen,
Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 351 ff.
137 Thibaut, System I above n 117, ??63-68 (at 49 ff.);Amdts,Pandektenabove n 117,?%84, 243 (at 140, 483);
Puchta, Pandektenabove n 124, ? 261 (at 402); id., Vorlesungen II above n 117, 5 261 (at 82); von Wichter,
Wiirttembergisches Privatrecht II above n 117 at 777.
138Windscheid,Lehrbuchabove n 119, ? 101 (vol I at 284 ff.),? 257 (vol II at 30 f.); see beforevon Wening-
Ingenheim,Lehrbuch I above n 119, ? 100 (at 238).
139 823, sect I and II.
140G. Brfiggemeier, Deliktsrecht(1986), nn 80 ff.,85 ff.;G. Herrmann,Zum Nachteildes Vermndgens (1978) at
1 ff.,143 ff.and passim.
141Above section4C, nn 110 ff.
142See his Larva legisAquiliaeabove n 69, ?? 2, 9, 10, 12.
143See Jansen,Hafrungsrecht above n 5 at 345 ff.,349 ff.
144Metaphysik derSitten(2nd edn, K6nigsberg,1798) at 97; cf.W. Kersting,Wohlgeordnete Freiheit(1993) at 294;
F.C.T. Hepp, Die Zurechnung auf demGebietedes Civilrechts, insbesonderedie Lehrevonden Ungliicksfidllen
(Tiibingen
1838) at 247 ff.It is therefore wrongto understandKant as an authority fora 'liberal'conceptionofextracontractual
liabilityleadingto the faultprinciple in the law of but
torts; see forsuch an view E.J.Weinrib,The Idea ofprivateLaw
(1995) at 80 ff.;K. Larenz/C.-W.Canaris,Lehrbuch desSchuldrechts,vol II/2 (13thedn, 1994) at 350.

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462 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

more detail by the Austrian natural lawyer Franz von Zeiller.'45 Outside
academia similarviewswereheld by the Englishjudge Baron Bramwell'46and by
theBelgianProcureurGeneralLeclercq.147 In the 20thcenturythisidea has been
defendedprominently byBorisStarck,'48Tony Honor&~49 and RichardEpstein.'50

B. RightsBeyondtheSurfaceI: Negligence
All theselawyersgave expressionto the commonmoralintuitionthatthe objec-
tive factof a detrimentto a legallyprotectedindividualpositionmightas such
constitutean iniuria.They show thatthisidea, deeplyentrenchedin European
legal thinking,is stillalivetoday.It would therefore ifit werewith-
be surprising
out anyrelevanceforpositiveprivatelaw.
However,ifone searchesforit withinthe domain of the law of negligence,it
clearlycannotbe foundin anypureform.The protectionofrightsis not theonly
valid considerationin the law of torts,'51and everyconsiderationrelatedto the
protectionof rightsmust be hidden beyond the currentterminologyof duties
and breach,wrongand fault.Early on, Domat had understoodGrotius' open
formulation'52 in De jure belliac pacis as an unrestrictedgeneral clause which
includedpure economic loss,153and Pothierfollowedsuit,rejectingthe Roman
approachofdifferent tortsfordifferent injuries." The modem generalclause in
art. 1382 Code civilresultsdirectlyfromthismainstreamdoctrine,'55and it was
restrictedonlyby thejurisprudence takingrecourseto the considerationsof fault,
causationand damage.156 Argumentsrelatedto individualrightswere seemingly
irrelevantto thisdevelopment.Likewisealso the Englishtortof negligencewas
based on a duty-model.When Lord Atkin referredto continentalideas in
defendinghis neighbour-principle in Donoghuev Stevenson,he had such an
in
understanding mind;15 and equally, Lord Macmillan's more reluctant

145F.von Zeiller,Das natiirlichePrivat-Recht (3rd edn, Wien, 1819), ??4 ff.,49, 179; cf. also Commentar above n
119,? 1295, n 4, ? 1306, n l.
146 See, as examples,Bamford v Turnley(3 B & S 62, 84 f., 122 ER, 25, 27, 33) and Brandv Hammersmith and
CityRailwayC. ((1867) LR 2 QB 223, 230 ff.)
147 For thistheorysee AndreTunc, 'Introduction'in International Encyclopedia ofComparative Law (IECL) XI/I
(1983) ch 1, n 175 withfurther references.
148 'Domaine et fondement de la responsabilitesans faute'LVI (1958) Revuetrimestrielle de droitcivil(RTD civ.)
475, 501 ff.:a 'guarantee-theory' of subjectiverightsas normativefoundationof a broad strictliability.
149See his articlescollectedin Responsibility
and Fault above n 2.
'502 (1973) JLSt 151 ff.
151 Cf. J. Stapleton,'Duty of Care Factors: a Selectionfromthe JudicialMenus' in P. Cane &
Stapleton(eds),
TheLaw ofObligations. Essaysin CelebrationofJohnFleming(1998) at 59 ff.
152
See above n 105.
153Domat, Loix civilesabove n 58, partI, liv. II, tit.VIII, sect.4, ? 1: Touteslespertes& touslesdommages
quipeu-
ventarriver par lefaitde quelquepersonne... doiventdtre par celuidontl'imprudence
reparees ou autrefautey a donntlieu.
That thisclause was meantto includepure economic loss becomes also apparentfromthefactthatDomat wanted
to applyit also to contractualcases (ibid,? 3) and the negotiorum gestio(ibid,? 10).
154 Pothier,Traitedesobligations above n 68, nn 116, 121, 123.
155 B. Auzary-Schmaltz, 'Liabilityin Tort in France beforethe Code Civil: The Originsof Art. 1382 ff.Code
Civil' in Schrage,Negligence above n 51 at 309, 330 ff.
156 See above n 8.
157See e.g. [1932] AC 562, 580 ff.,whereLord Atkinreferred
to the continentalconceptofculpathathe under-
stood as 'based upon a generalpublic sentimentofmoralwrongdoing'.

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AUTUMN 2004 Duties and Rightsin Negligence 463

approach was clearlybased on a duty-conceptionof negligence:such was his


understandingof Scottishlaw, fromwhichhe proceeded, althoughonly in his
second draft,generallyto Englishlaw.158
None the less, the modem European law of negligenceclearlydisplaysfea-
turesthat one would expect if it were to be consciouslyconstructedfromthe
point of view of the right-modelof liability.First, liabilityis in principle
restrictedto cases of infringements of interestsregardedas individualrights-
thisis apparentfromwhathas been said above.159 On the otherhand, individual
rightsare protectedcompletely-everynegligentinfringement of a rightgives
rise to a claim fordamages. This explainsthe modem extensionof liabilityin
cases of personalinjuries.160Personal rightsare judged (at least) as valuable as
propertyrights,and thusthe feelingis growingthateveryloss-including imma-
terialloss-must be recoverablein law. A thirdfeatureof a right-conception of
negligencewould consistin the effectiveprotectionof individualrights.Stand-
ards of care mightbe stricterthan genuine duties of behaviour,because they
were expressionsused to attributeresponsibility. However,beforetracesofsuch
an understandingcan be examinedin more detail,it willbe helpfulfirstto have
a look at instancesof strictliability.

C. RightsBeyond theSurfaceII: StrictLiability


This issue is most interestingin the French law of delict because it does not
offerany doctrinalroom for right-oriented considerationswithinthe law of
delictual liability.None the less, such considerationsseem to have played an
unconscious,but none the less decisiverole in anotherdevelopmentwithinthe
French law of extracontractualliability,namelythe doctrineof strictgardien-
liabilityforfaitsdes choses.'"6 This doctrinewas originallynot intendedby the
authorsofthe Code civil;162it was introducedby thejurisprudence in 1896163 and
1930,164 when the faultprincipleproved to be too narrow.The judges probably
took recourseto art. 1384 Code civilforthe onlyreason thattherewas no other,
more adequate, norm to which theycould have attachedstrictliability.Thus,
its true normativebasis long remainedunclear. Having a thing,as such, is no
sufficient reason forstrictliability.165The prevailingFrenchexplanation-a risk

158Cf. his firstspeech in A. Rodger,'Lord Macmillan's Speech in Donoghuev Stevenson'108 (1992) LQR 236,
238 ff.
159Above section lA.
160 Cf. H. Koziol, 'ComparativeRemarks'in H. Koziol & B. Steininger (eds), EuropeanTortLaw 2001 (2002) at
517, 518.
161
For this,see von Bar, EuropeanLaw of Tortsabove n 5, vol I, nn 106 ff.,vol II, nn 315 ff.;S. Whittaker,in
J.Bell, S. Boyron& Whittaker, ofFrenchLaw (1998) at 371 ff.
Principles
162U. Hiibner,Die
Haftungdes Gardienimfranzdsischen Zivilrecht(1972) at 3 ff.;B.A. Koch, Die Sachhaftung
(1992) at 19 ff.;von Bar, EuropeanLaw ofTortsI above n 5, n 107.
163Cour de Cassation D.
1897, prem.part.,433 ff.(arritTeffaineor du remorqueur).
164
D. 1930, prem.part.,57 ff.(arritsJand'heur).
165 M.L. Charbonnier,D. 1985 jur. 20 ff.; G. Wagner, 'Grundstrukturen des Europiischen Deliktsrechts'in
R. Zimmermann(ed.), Grundstrukturen des EuropdischenDeliktsrechts(2003) at 189, 283 f., 288 f.; Whittaker,in
Bell, Boyron& Whittaker, FrenchLaw above n 161 at 372: 'a monster'.

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464 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

theory'66--cannot explainthisliabilityeither.Normally,an accidentis the out-


come of two activitiescausing the damage only as a resultof theirconcur-
rence.167 Thus, the law has to attributerisksto individualactivities;it cannotbe
explainedby the idea thata riskwas naturallyattachedto a certainactivity.
Later, however,it was argued plausiblythat the true basis of this liability
could onlybe foundin a 'guarantee-theory' ofindividualrights.'68This is the old
European idea of strict the
liabilityprotecting individual
allocation ofgoods, and
in any eventit seems clear thatthe immediatemotiveforthe judges introducing
thisliabilitywas the feelingthatdamages should be awardedwherethe defend-
ant was responsible,althoughnot actingculpably,forphysicalinjury'69-namely
forthe violationof the most importantfundamentalright.Withinthe French
systemof delictualliability,however,thereseemed to be no room forsuch con-
siderations,and, correspondingly, French courts have occasionally awarded
damages even in cases of pure economic loss.170However, these decisions-
disputed even withinFrench law71--concernedborderlinecases: in Germany
theywould be discussedas an infringement ofproperty.172
Thus, all in all, it is at least arguablethatconsiderationswhichhave been dis-
cussed elsewhereundertheheadingof rights-theories of liabilityhave been con-
stitutivefor the developmentof the French doctrineof strictliability.Judges
wanted to protectthe allocation of individualgoods effectively withoutbeing
able to expressthisadequatelywithinthe French systemof privatelaw. This is
confirmedby a developmentthatcan be seen in the protectionof a rightto pri-
vacy (la vieprivee).Here, effective protectioncan normallynot be assuredby the
idea of damage 'done by things'.However, afterthis righthad been acknowl-
edged in France, judges soon decided thatthe factof an invasionof this right
would in itselfamount to fault(under the delictualgeneralclause of art. 1382
Code civil)withoutfurther investigatingwhethertherehad been any elementof

166M. Ferid & H.J. Sonnenberger,Das Franzdsische Zivilrecht II (2nd edn, 1986), nn 2 O 12 ff.,303 f., 306;
Mazeaud, Responsabilite civileII (7th edn, 1970), nn 1303 ff.;B. Starck,DroitCivil Obligations(1972) at 44 ff.;
Mazeaud/F. Chabas, Obligations.Theorie genirale(8th edn, 1991), n 538, both arguingforan explanationin terms
of presumedfault:Mazeaud, ibid, nn 1312 ff.;Mazeaud/Chabas,ibid, nn 539 f. But thisis not convincingeither,
because the absence offaultis irrelevant forliability.
167 For such a reciprocalview of causationsee R.H. Coase, 'The Problemof Social Cost' 3 (1961) JL & Ec. 1,

esp. 2, 12; J.Coleman, ThePracticeofPrinciple(2001) at 47 f.


168 Starck,LVI (1958) RTD civ. 492 ff.,501 f., 509 ff.;
althoughStarckhas maintainedhis centraltheses (Obli-
gationsabove n 166, nn 58 ff.) thereis howevervirtuallyno discussionof his argumentsin French textbooks(cf.
n 166), probablybecause thereis no point of referenceforthemin positiveFrench law. The main defectof his
theoryconsistshoweverin it not being able to offera fullpictureof the law of torts:instead of allowingother
considerationsthan the protectionof individualrightsto play a role withinthe law of torts(whichtheydo-see
below section6E), Starckimplausiblytriesto explaineverything in termsofimplicitlimitsofrights:ibid at 505 ff.
169 Whittaker, in Bell, Boyron& Whittaker, FrenchLaw above n 161 at 378.
170Cour de cassationciv. D. 1980, inf.rapide,414 f.: aftera vesselhad lostan anchor,a harbourwas closed, and
anothercompanyclaimeddamages foritspure economicloss resultingfromlate dischargeof itsship.
171 However on the basis of
causation; see Whittaker,in Bell, Boyron& Whittaker, FrenchLaw above n 161 at
378.
172 BGHZ 55, 153 ff. (Fleet-case):an infringement of the individualpropertywould, however,presupposethe
inclusion,not the exclusionof a ship. But such a distinctioncan be plausible onlyifit is conceptuallyrelatedto
a discussionofinterests protectedbytheallocationofproperty rights;see Jansen,Haftungsrecht
above n 5 at 504 ff.

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AUTUMN 2004 Dutiesand Rightsin Negligence 465

wrongfulbehaviour.173 Again, the protectionof an absolute subjectiverightis


seen as a reason formoreor less strictliability.
Similarobservationscan also be made withinthe Englishlaw. Here Ibbetson
has observedthatduringthe 19thcentury,'the moralview thata personshould
be liable (only) forfailingto take reasonable care was counterbalancedby an
equally strongview thatpropertyrightsshould be protected'.174 This becomes
apparent not only from Baron Bramwell's opinions cited above.'75 It also
explainsstriking featuresof modernrulesof strictliability.Thus defamationhas
remaineda stricttortas a resultof the view of 19th centuryjudges thatit pro-
tecteda rightin reputationequivalentto a propertyright.176And the extraordin-
ary rule of strictliabilityin Rylandsv Fletchter owed its existencemainlyto
argumentson propertygrounds.177
In the 21st centurythe divergentvaluation of propertyand personal rights
sounds strange;but there is still today a strongfeelingthat individualrights
mightdeservea strongerprotectionthan duty-conceptions of liabilitycan offer.
A finalview of German law confirmsthisobservation.Strictliabilityhas always
been introducedby statute,and mostlyforpoliticalreasons; oftenit was moti-
vated sociallyor ideologically.Thus-as in France and in England-the norma-
tivebasis forstrictliabilityis not reallyclear even today.178Mostlyit is said to
consistin the extraordinary dangerof an activity,179
but on the one hand thereis
strictliabilityfor activitiesthat are not reallydangerous,'18 and on the other,
thereare dangerousactivitieswhichdo not incurstrictliability.181

173P. Kayser,La protection de la viepriviepar le droit(3rd edn, 1995) nn 66, 196 (also forrecentmodifications
ofthe French law with regardto the European Conventionon Human Rights); Whittaker,in Bell, Boyron &
Whittaker, FrenchLaw above n 161 at 367, 369.
'17 Obligations above n 3 at 185.
175See n 146.
176See Ibbetson,Obligations above n 3 at 186; foran examplecf.De Crespigny v Wellesley(1829) 5 Bing 392, 406,
perBest C.J.
177 Ibbetson,Obligations above n 3 at 186; howeveranotherfactorinfluencing the decisionseemsto consistin the
factthatthejudgesweredecidingundertheimmediateimpressionofhundredsofliveslostin spectacularaccidents
in Holmfirthand Sheffield;cf.A.W.B. Simpson,LeadingCases in theCommonLaw (1995) at 195 ff.
'78 Oftenit is said, thatstrictliabilityis based on principlesof distributive
justice,whereasliabilityforfaultwould
be an expressionof correctivejustice: Esser, Gefdihrdungshaftung above n 133 at 69 ff.;S. Meder, Schuld,Zufall,
Risiko(1993) at 209 ff.,274 f.; Larenz/Canaris,Schuldrecht 11/2above n 144 at 354, 607. But thisis not convincing
at all, since both strictliabilityand liabilityforfaultare likewisea legal expressionof individualresponsibility; see,
more detailed,Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 76 ff.,118 ff.It should be emphasizedthatthe questionforthe
reason of liabilityis not at all a purelyacademic one: the lack of a firmprincipledfoundationis a main motivefor
judges not applyingrulesofstrictliabilityanalogously;cf.RGZ 78, 171, 172; BGHZ 55, 229, 232 ff.;BGH (1960)
NJW 1345, 1346; (1975) NJW 117, 118.
179H. K6tz, 'Haftungfiir besondereGefahr' 1970 (170) Archivfiirdie civilistische Praxis(AcP) 1, 21 f.; Larenz/
Canaris, Schuldrecht 11/2above n 144 at 605 ff.,607; E. Deutsch,Allgemeines Haftungsrecht (2nd edn, 1995) n 220;
Wagner,in Zimmermann,Grundstrukturen above n 165 at 288 ff.
I80Instancesof quasi-strictliabilityare founde.g. withregardto the securityin supermarketsand pubs (BGH
(1985) NJW482 f.; (1991) NJW921 f.) and on pavements(BGH (1970) VersR182; OLG K61n (1992) VersR355
ff.), or forwaterescaping fromwashing-machines(OLG Diisseldorf(1975) VersR159 f.; OLG Hamm (1984)
Monatsschrfit fir DeutschesRecht(MDR) 668; LandgerichtGieBen (1997) VersR1023).
181 Thus, when the firstmodem strictliability was introducedfortrains,cabs wereprobablyeven more danger-
ous than trains,but nobody seriouslyproposed a strictliabilityforthem;cf. V. Mataja, Das Rechtdes Schadenser-
satzesvomStandpunkt derNationalaikonomie (Leipzig, 1888) at 58; E. Steinbach,Die Grundsditze desheutigenRechts
iiberdenErsatzvon Vermbgensschdden (Wien, 1888) at 60, 63.

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466 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

However,it is clear thatthereis normallyno strictliabilitywhereno individ-


ual righthas been infringed.182Thus it is generallyaccepted in modern doc-
trinethat althoughthe formulationsof strictliability-rules do not referto the
violation of a right,theymust be interpretedas such in order to harmonize
themwiththe basic rule in 5 823 I BGB.183 On the otherhand, extraordinarily
strictstandardsof care alwaysprotectindividualrights.When duringthe 20th
century an absolute right to privacy (allgemeinesPersiinlichkeitsrecht) was
acknowledgedby the courts,it was-as in France'84--soon protectedby very
strictstandardsof care, the resultsinterestinglyresemblingthe English strict
tortof defamation.'85Thus it may be concluded thatalso in Germanythe rea-
son forstrictliabilityconsistsin the responsibilityforinfringingan individual
right.

D. RightsBeyondtheSurfaceIII: Necessity
Cases ofnecessityare likewiseinteresting. Here, it is clearthatthebasis ofliabil-
itycannot consistin wrongfulbehaviour,since the action causing damage was
expresslyallowed. However,it seems evidentthattheremustbe liability.If I am
allowed to use or endangermyneighbour'sgoods formyown interests, the least
that can be demanded fromme is makinggood the damage caused. None the
less, tortlawyershave foundit mostdifficult to understandthisliability.Oftenit
has been denied-because it didn'tfitin withthe traditionalduty-conception of
Sometimes,
liability.186 as in England,lawyers make liabilitydependenton some
faultin causing a situationof necessity.187Elsewhereit was explainedas based
on theidea ofunjustenrichment,188 and occasionallyeven as a civil-as opposed
to public-wrong.189 Similarlythe argument(resemblingverymuch Molina's
explanationof strictliability)190
has been proposedthatitwould amountto fault
if a person causes an injuryto his victimin case of necessitywithoutbeing

182There are
exceptions,e.g. in thelaw concerningtheexecutionofjudgements(%?717 II, 945 codeofcivilproce-
dure(ZPO)); howeverthereare special explanationsfortheseinstancesof liability,namelythe legal powerof caus-
ingseriouseconomicloss withoutthedefendantbeingable to defendhimself;cf.Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at
531 ff.,538 ff.
183Cf. H.H. Seiler,in Miinchener Kommentar zum BGB (3rd edn, 1993 ff.),? 904, n 2 (forcases of necessity);
BGH (1981) NJW750 f.; Wagner,in Zimmermann,Grundstrukturen above n 165 at 270 f.
184See above n 173.
185
Jansen,Haftungsrecht above n 5 at 488 ff.
186 Ulp. D. 47, 9, 3, 7; Ulp. D. 9, 2, 29, 3; Ulp./Cels. D. 9, 2, 49, 1; Ulp./Serv.D. 43, 24, 7, 4; see forthe
Roman law S. Schipani,Responsabilitd 'ex legeAquilia' - criteri
di imputazionee il problemadella 'culpa' (1969) at 153
ff.,206 ff.,310 ff.;T. Giaro, Excusationecessitatis nel dirittoromano(1982) at 84 ff.;G. MacCormack, 'Aquilian
Studies' 41 (1975) SDHI 1, 53 ff.For thesimilarpositionduringthe ususmodernus see above nn 102 f. and Domat,
Loix civilesabove n 58, partI, liv. II, tit.VIII, sect.4, ? 7; for19thcenturyGermandoctrinevon Jhering, Schuldmo-
mentabove n 114 at 44; RGZ 5, 160 ff.
187 SouthportCorp.v Esso Petroleum Co. [1954] QB 182, 197 ff.(perDenning, L.J.); Markesinis& Deakin, Tort
Law above n 12 at 395 withfurther references.
188 A. Weill/F.Terre,Droitcivil.LES obligations (4th edn, 1986), n 634; cf. also M.R. Savatier,'L'etat de neces-
siteet la responsabilitecivileextra-contractuelle' in Etudesde droitcivila la memoire de HenriCapitant(1937) at 729,
741, 746 f.; forthe controverseFrenchdiscussionsee Starck,LVI (1958) RTD civ. 484 f.
'89 A.von Tuhr, Der Nothstandim Civilrecht(Heidelberg, 1888) at 134: 'widerrechtlich'; Motive,Mugdan II
above n 117 at 407: 'civilrechtlich nichterlaubt'.
190Above at nn 63 ff.

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AUTUMN 2004 Dutiesand Rightsin Negligence 467
prepared to make good the damage caused.'91'In Germanythe duty of com-
pensationhas been regardedas a special case of liability,narrowlylimitedto the
permissionof intentionally causing loss192--with devastatingeffecton the legal
system;'93 and even today this dutyis oftenregardedas a somewhatarbitrary
exception difficult
to explain.194 Only rarelyhas it been integratedinto the
general rulesof negligence.195
However,all theseproblemsdisappearifit is realizedthatthe reason forthis
liabilityconsistssimplyin the responsibility forinfringingthe victim'sright.The
permissionto use or endangermyneighbour'sgoods neitherdeniesmyresponsi-
bilityforhis detriment nor excludeshis rightto compensation,and myresponsi-
bilityresultsfromwilfully and intentionally causingthe damage in question.

E. StandardsofCare in Negligence
If it is accepted thatthe responsibilityforan infringement upon another'sright
constitutesa valid reason forliability,it followsthatthe functionof faultin tort
law mustbe changingfundamentally. Instead of being understoodas the basic
reason for imposingduties of compensation,fault is seen as a restrictionof
otherwisestrictliability.Of course, there can be good argumentsfor such a
restriction. Normallyeverybody'sactivities-likeusinga bicycleor storingthings
in one's car-should not be constrainedby the impositionof liabilityifpursued
lawfully,and thus in such situationsjudges emphasize the importanceof the
faultprinciple.196Probablymanyotherreasonsforthe restriction of liabilitycan
be found, frequentlydiscussed as policy considerationsin the law of negli-
gence.'97They cannot be discussed here in full,but it is clear that theygive
expressionto individualor collectiveinterestsrestricting duties of care which
would otherwisebe morestrict.
Therefore,reasonsforstrictliabilityand reasonsforthe restriction of liability
may conflict,and judges have to base theirdecisions on balancing conflicting
reasons. Correspondinglyliabilitymay be more or less strictaccordingto the
weightsofthecollidingprinciples,and thisis preciselyhow thelaw ofnegligence
appearsin reality,today.From a comparativepointofview,rulesofstrictliability
and negligenceare largelyequivalent.Trafficaccidentsare governedin Germany
191
Savatier,EtudesCapitantabove n 188 at 733 ff.
192? 904 S. 2 BGB.
193 Thus, on the one hand thereis no liabilityifthe tortfeasor
had no rightactingas he did but was onlyexcused
forcausingtheloss in question;see BGHZ 127, 195, 208 ff.:the defendanthad informedtheStaatssicherheit ofthe
victim'splans to fleefromthe GDR. He was excused to do so because he was said to be enmeshedin the totalitar-
ian systemof the GDR--the claimantgot no compensationforbeing imprisonedforseveralyears (forcontrary
decisionsof French courtsin a comparablecase see Cour d'Appel Nancy D. 1874, 2e partie184; Savatier,Etudes
Capitantaabove n 188 at 731 f.). On the otherhand therecan be no liabilityifthe tortfeasor hopes to avoid the
loss, 'only' puttingthe victimintoan extraordinarily dangeroussituation:BGHZ 92, 357, 359 ff.;see forcontrary
decisionsunderAmericancommonlaw n 195.
194von Bar, EuropeanLaw
ofTortsII above n 5, n 502.
195 Vincent v Lake Erie Transp.Co., Supreme Court of Minnesota, 124 NW 221 (1910); see also Fleming,The
Law ofTortsabove n 9 at 105 ff.
196For an overviewsee above n 5 at 620 ff.withfurtherreferences.
Jansen,Haftungsrecht
197Stapleton,above n 151 at 63 ff.

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468 OxfordJournalofLegal Studies VOL.24

and France by a regimeof strictliability,in England by the old rules of negli-


gence, the resultsbeing similar.198 in France is mirroredby
The gardien-liability
the German Verkehrspflichten-Haftung, the former being understoodas a strict
liability,the latteras a liabilityforbreachof a legal duty.None the less, thereis
apparentlyno substantialdifferencein the courts' decisions.'99Likewise, the
rulesofstrictliabilityofEnglishnuisancecorrespondto strictVerkehrspflichten in
Germany,theresultsbeingidentical.
It would of course be wrong to thinkthat there are no differencesin the
European law of torts:Frenchjudges give greatweightto the ideas offraternitd
and solidarite, whereas English judges emphasize the importanceof individual
freedomalso in tortlaw.200Thus, as a matterof fact,the Englishlaw of tortsis
morerestrictive thantheFrenchlaw ofdelict.However,fora structural analysisit
is enoughto realizethattherecan be no clear borderlinebetweenstrictliability
and the law of negligenceeitheron the continentor in the commonlaw. Strict
liabilitymustcontainelementsdescribingindividualresponsibility,201 and 'duties
of care' can be more or less strict.Sometimestheyare expressionsof genuine
legal dutiesof behaviour;sometimestheyeven formulateobligations de resultat202
thatare independentof any real possibilityof avoidingthe damage.203It would
therefore be misleadingto understanddutiesin negligenceas a genuinerequire-
ment of legallycorrectbehaviour.In negligence,'duties' are standardsof care
whichdescribethe rangeof individualresponsibility. Their justificationis to be
foundin theprotectionofindividualrights,theirexactscope beingtheresultof a
complexdecisionbalancingthenecessaryprotectionoftheserightsagainstcollid-
ing principlesof-individual or collective-policy-considerations. Correspond-
ingly,duties of compensationshould not be seen as a sanction for wrong
behaviour-this could help defendantsto accept a judgmentwhen they feel
themselves(perhaps)responsiblebut to be surelynot guiltyoffault.

7. Conclusion
A continentallawyeris oftensurprisedby Englishjudges frankly discussingthe
policyconsiderations of theirdecisions.However, it is difficult
to integratesuch
considerationsinto the framework of the traditionalrulesof negligencebecause

198Roberts v Ramsbottom [1980] 1 All ER 7; it is submittedthatmodem judges have restrictedliabilityin such


cases (cf. Mansfieldv WeetabixLtd [1997] PIQR 526), but none the less thereis a strongfeelingthatliabilityfor
accidentson motorwaysshould be guided by strictdutiesof care, partlybecause thereis a dutyto insureagainst
such accidents.
199U. Hiibner, 'Zur Problematikder "Verkehrssicherungspflichten" im franz6sischenRecht' (1980) VersR
795 ff.;von Bar, EuropeanLaw ofTortsabove n 5, vol I, nn 98 ff.,106, vol II, nn 244, 306, 313, 315 ff.,322 f.
200German law findsits place probablysomewherein the middle; cf. forall Jansen,'Auf dem Weg zu einem
europHischen Haftungsrecht'(2001) ZEuP 30, 36 ff.
201
CambridgeWaterCo. v EasternCountries Leather[1994] 2 AC 264.
202Mazeaud/Chabas, Obligations above n 166, n 440; forGermanyC.von Bar, Verkehrspflichten (1980) at 48, 53,
114 f., 128 ff.,further
references
within:dutiesofguarantee,ensuringthatno accidentwillhappen.
203Therefore,thequestionis disputedin Germany;contrary Larenz/Canaris, 11/2above n 144 at 403,
Schuldrecht
407, 429.

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AUTUMN 2004 Dutiesand Rightsin Negligence 469

theyare not relatedto duties of behaviour.Afterall, the betteropportunity or


the duty of insuringagainst an accident has nothingto do with the concrete
standardof care owed. On the contrary, ifI knewmyselfto be insured-as long
as onlydamage to propertyis concerned-I may feelfreeto be less carefulthan
ifI mustfearnot being able to make good a damage caused. On the continent,
such difficultiesare probablyan importantmotiveforjudgesto explainonlyvery
rarelytheirdecisions openly. Principlesof fair allocation of risks are hidden
behind the languageof dutiesand breach,culpa and iniuria.This makes it diffi-
cult to understandthe true reasons forsuch decisions,and the law of tortsis
thusbecominga matterofpure casuistry.
It maybe doubted whetherthe traditionalapproachin the law of tortsto dis-
tinguishing rules of strictliabilityand faultprinciplescategoricallyis any longer
adequate.204Afterall, in everycase wherean individualabsoluterightis violated,
liabilityis based on the responsibility forthisviolationand not on the reproach
ofwrongfulbehaviour.However,such questionswerenot the subjectofthisart-
icle. Here it was only submittedthat beyond the currentrules of negligence
whichdescribeliabilitymainlythroughthe traditionalaquilian conceptsof duty,
breach,wrongand faultone can discernthe notionthatindividualrightsshould
be effectively protected.It has been shownthatthisidea is an old, fundamental
elementof European privatelaw, and thatit is hiddenbeneaththe aquilian con-
ceptsonlyforcontingent, historicreasons.It providesa betterexplanationofthe
present law than the traditional approach,and it should thereforebe made the
for
startingpoint every future reformulation of thelaw oftorts.

204
above n 5 at 545 ff.,635 ff.
See, moredetailed,Jansen(2001) ZEuP 54 ff.;Haftungsrecht

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