January 9, 2010

A Legal Perspective on Inter-Personal Relationships

Often, when things go wrong between colleagues, friends, or family, one party says to the other, "I'm so sorry, but, I didn't mean it. You know I didn't mean to do it. Right? It was an accident!"

This statement is a plea for forgiveness, and a hope that all will return to normalcy.

In US common civil law, this statement would be a defense against intentional misconduct. But, it would be useless against a claim of gross negligence and negligence.

Gross Negligence is a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both.

Negligence, rather, is a mere failure to exercise reasonable care.

In our inter-personal relationships, I fear we are often too binary -- looking for intentional harm or assuming that without intention, the non-harmed party must be innocent.

But if we adopt the US common civil law standard, if we are careless with those we should be caring for, then we are responsible for the harm we cause them by our carelessness.

And, if (for whatever reason) we consciously and voluntarily disregard the need to use reasonable care in our relationships (for example, when the other party has asked us to pay attention to something that hurts them and we choose not to pay attention to it in our treatment of them), then we are grossly negligent, and we are even more culpable for their harm than if we just failed to exercise reasonable care.

If 2009 taught me anything, it was that I needed to stand up for myself when people (professionally, personally, and in the family) were harming me without intention. On accident.

They didn't mean it. They were not bad people. I love them.

But, at the end of the day, even if the other party doesn't mean it, if their actions harm you, they harm you. And, we all have a duty to avoid negligence (and gross negligence) when it comes to care of ourselves.


a said...

i LIKE this perspective.

Biting Tongue said...


I like it too... [grin]