The Cultural Evolution of Tort Law


THE CULTURAL EVOLUTION OF TORT LAW* Abstract The Institutes of Justinian and other Greco-Roman recitations of tort-type delicts and remedies are recognized as root stock of modern western tort law, common law or civil code-based alike. Long before these sources, however, both ancient and primitive cultures adopted norms and customs which defined permissible individual and group conduct, and which provided for remedies ranging from money damages to banishment. Among the surveyed examples of ancient cultural responses to tort-type delicts were numerous instances in which both the civil wrong identified and the remedy provided for can be harmonized readily with modern tort law, whether it is practiced in common law or civil code nations or throughout the world. A broad range of such examples can be found not only in the nations or regions in which such norms obtained, but also in their specific subject areas: pubic nuisance, manslaughter, assault, trespass, conversion, negligence, strict liability, deceit, and defamation. Indeed, a review of ancient tort-type law dispels any Euro-centric claim that western Europeans led in the conception and nurturance of tort principles at any point in history.



Date of this Version

March 2005