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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2006




University of Minnesota




The reasonable person is an important and ubiquitous figure in the law. Despite the seeming handicap of being a hypothetical construct assembled by lawyers rather than a flesh-andblood person, he (for most of Western legal history) or she (in more recent times) determines such varied legal and factual matters as the standard of care for negligence liability,' the materiality of misrepresentations in both contract 2 and tort,3 the applicability of hearsay exceptions for admissions against interest,4 the scope of liability for workplace harassment under Title VII, 5 the clarity of law necessary to defeat the qualified immunity of government officials,6 and the custodial status of suspects for purposes of Miranda.7 To carry out these myriad tasks, the reasonable person must understand community norms of care in some settings, apply customary trade practices in others, and grasp principles of legal interpretation in yet others. The reasonable person constructed by the law is capable of assuming many guises and performing many functions.

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