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Depending upon the proclivities of your professor, the law of negligence could very-well constitute the largest of the tort subjects treated in your first-year course.

In its many centuries of development, tort law has gone through many stages. In earlier times, the rule was simple: a man was responsible for the consequences of his acts. His intent might be innocent or even laudable, such a snatching a child from the front of a runaway horse but thereby dislocating the child’s wrist, or throwing a rock to disable a marauder, only to miss and damage the property of a third-part. In both cases, at early common law, the actor would be liable for the harm.

At or about the decades of the industrial revolution, a change began to evolve. That change was in reference to nonintentional torts, in which the actor’s conduct might be innocent or careless, but did not rise to the level of “intent” required for the intentional torts. In these settings, the law evolved so that, for a nonintentional tort, the plaintiff would be required to prove that the defendant was in some way in fault, e.g., careless or reckless, to give only two examples. These themes coalesced along the lines to a general rule that to recover damages, the plaintiff would be required to prove that the other party had not acted as would a reasonable prudent person under the circumstances, and that that this conduct resulted in injury to plaintiff and his property.

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