Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Comparative Negligence Definition:

An tort law analysis which considers the negligence of the victim and which may lead to a reduction of the award against the defendant, proportionate to the contribution of the victim’s negligence.

Related Terms: Contributory Negligence

As Justice Carey of the Supreme Court of Delaware wrote in McGraw v Corrin:

"The theory of comparative negligence is that a party's contributory negligence is not abrogated, rather that the damages are apportioned according to the degree of negligence, or fault, of each of the parties."

Or in Lyman, in which  Justice Roskopp of the Michigan Court of Appeals wrote of comparative negligence as a defence to a tort claim:

"The defense of comparative negligence (is that) ... a plaintiff's negligence is a partial bar to his recovery; the plaintiff's recovery is reduced to the extent that his or her negligence contributed to the injury....

"[T]he defendant must pay the full percentage of damages caused by his negligence.

"Comparative negligence is therefore a factual defense based on causation."

A comparative negligence analysis may even prevent an award altogether if the victim’s negligence, when compared with the defendant, is equal to or greater in terms or contributing to the situation which caused the injury or damage.


  • Lyman v. Bavar Company Inc., 356 NW 2d 28 (1984)
  • McGraw v. Corrin, 303 A. 2d 641 (1973)

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