• This article, The Reasonable Man - Law's Ghost God is published in two parts. This is Part 2, continuing from Part 1. This Part includes, at the conclusion, the references for this article.

<... continued from Part 1 ....>

In order to justify the occupation of such a large expanse of written word, authority in the law, it has been necessary for the priests of law to speak to the characteristics of the reasonable man.

In his delightful article on topic, Randy Austin writes of the balance of the reasonable man:

"(He) knows the laws of gravity, that fire burns, that water drowns, elementary rules of personal hygiene, that alcohol makes you drunk, that some jaywalk on a regular basis, and he drives so as to avoid them and that children seldom heed advice, often do silly things, and disobey like clockwork.

"He stacks the chairs properly at Sunday School, never fails to notice and avoid manure on the steps, and always avoids falling down….

"He never parks his car on the freeway to scrape his windshield. No one has ever seen him break the law without good reason or throw his television set out the window.

"He never makes an excessive demand upon his wife, his neighbors, his servants, his ox, or his ass.

"He never swears, gambles or loses his temper. He uses nothing except in moderation."

reasonable manIn law, the apparition of the reasonable person can be the difference between liability or a criminal conviction as in a void, the judge can do justice by calling upon this creature and judge conduct against what the reasonable person would have done in similar circumstances.

The reasonable person was intended to be just that, without judicial window dressing, a plain, simple, Lululemon spandex, one-size-fits-all concept to be applied across the board:

"Devoid, in short of any human weakness, with not one single saving vice, sans prejudice, procrastination, ill-nature, avarice, and absence of mind, as careful for his own safety as he is for that of others, this excellent but odious creature stands like a monument in our Courts of Justice, vainly appealing to his fellow-citizens to order their lives after his own example."6

Justice Macmillan wrote, in Mills v Stanway Coaches:

"The standard of foresight of the reasonable man is … an impersonal test. It eliminates the personal equation and is independent of the idiosyncrasies of the particular person whose conduct is in question…. The reasonable man is presumed to be free from both over-apprehension and over-confidence."


Almost every hour of day in some common law jurisdiction, a case is published which relies on the doctrine of the reasonable man.

Some jurists don't like him and call for his execution - perhaps the electric chair?

Still, thank God for the reasonable man for without him, or her, or it, there would be no reference point against which to judge and assign liability in cases where an individual seeks to exculpate themselves from their negligent or criminal actions or omissions which have hurt others:

"The ideal of that person exists only in the minds of men, and exists in different forms in the minds of different men. The standard is ... far from fixed as stable. But it is the best all-round guide that the law can devise."7

Long live the reasonable man!

Reasonable man for pope, prime minister, queen and President!


  • Austin, Randy, Better Off With The Reasonable Man Dead Or The Reasonable Man Did The Darndest Things, 1992 BYU L. Rev. D479 (1992 - NOTE 4)
  • Carlson v. Chochinov, [1948] 4 D.L.R. 556 (MBCA - NOTE 7)
  • Collins, Ronald, Language, History and the Legal Process: A Profile of the "Reasonable Man", 8 Rut.-Cam. L.J. 311 (1977)
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Negligence: An Introduction
  • Duhaime.org, Legal Definition of Reasonable Man
  • Fleming, John, The Law of Torts §107, 4th Edition (1971)
  • Hebert, A. P., Uncommon Law, 7th Edition (1952 - NOTE 6)
  • McGuire v Western Morning News, [1903] 2 KB 100 and also Hall v Brooklands Auto-Racing Club [1933] 1 KB 224 (NOTE 5)
  • Megarry, R. E., Miscellany-at-Law (London: Wildy & Sons, 1955), pages 260-269
  • Mills v Stanway Coaches, [1940] 2 KB 334
  • Piggott, F. T., The Reasonable Man at Common Law, 14 Law Mag. & L. Rev. 5th 314 (1888-1889 - NOTE 1 and 3)
  • Rosenblum, Victor, The Reasonable Man, 6 Law & Soc'y Rev. 3 (1971-1972 - NOTE 2)
  • Vaughan v Menlove, 132 E.R. 490