This is my response to a discussion question while attending GWU awhile back:
The term “reasonable man”…actually “reasonable person” is a legal expression used in both criminal and tort law. It refers to a theoretical person in society who shows average judgment, skill or care in his or her conduct. The reasonable person standard is the basis for comparison when deciding issues of liability in civil or criminal cases involving negligence.
In the same circumstances, how would an average person have behaved?
In my personal opinion, who is average? When I think about who may be “average” in our society, it’s difficult to see through the many beautiful layers of culture but I suppose there truly are average people among us. I would think people do not want to be seen as “average”.
Jane Doe and Joe Blow are boring. They have no emotions! No feelings! Nothing but going with the flow of their life and not messing up or doing stupid things. It’s hard for me to define the average person because I have probably never met one.
I think it’d be very hard to find one boring/I mean average person, let alone 12 which makes me curious of the jury formation process. I didn’t make it through, although I’ve only been summoned once and I would love to be on a jury. Speaking of, have you seen the play production 12 Angry Jurors? When Nick (my oldest son) was at North High a few years back, he was involved in the play and I’ve also seen it at the Stoner Theater with Richard Thomas as the lead. It’s a great production and makes you think about doubt!
Yet, our legal system compares actions of people and makes a decision based on the factors involved whether or not a reasonable person would or would not do the same thing. Using this standard can lead to strange outcomes. I found a Brigham Young Law Review titled Better Off with the Reasonable Man Dead. It’s kinda funny! It can be found at http://www.law2.byu.edu/lawreview4/archives/1992/2/aus.pdf
In part it reads: The Reasonable Man first appeared in the law (Did he evolve? Was he created?) in the 1837 case of Vaughan V Menlove. The defendant’s haystack caught fire due to poor ventilation. The defendant had been warned on numerous occasions that this would happen if he left the haystack. The defendant argued he had used his best judgment and did not foresee a risk of fire. The court held his best judgment was not enough. He was to be judged by the standard of a reasonable man.
The Reasonable Man has had many first names: Prudent, Ordinary, Typical, Ideal, Average, Right Minded…. He has qualities of a good citizen, an ordinary chap. On the other hand, others say he is inadequate, makes mistakes, is selfish and afraid. He does typical things (takes out the garbage, opens doors for others, etc.) he doesn’t do atypical things (like parking his car on the freeway to scrape a small blob of bird poop off his windshield.)
A BIG blob!
The Reasonable Man is shy. He doesn’t want to talk about himself, but his best friends (judges and law professors) are happy to talk about him. And talk about him a lot!
The reasonable person adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw.
I’m going to look for a Reasonable Person or two in my town (or in the courtroom) and see what transpires and why it may be that s/he is average…..a common; or on the flip side I’ll also look for the Unreasonable Person who is above average, maybe a bit wild and adventurous. No doubt in my mind this will be fun!
My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people participate in the world around them, particularly in their own world of work.