Contributory Negligence

A Historical and Comparative Study


Accidents often occur not only through the fault of the wrongdoer but also partly through the conduct of the injured party. This contributory conduct of the injured party and its consequences for the delictual liability of the wrongdoer have been central issues in the study of private law for centuries. In Contributory Negligence. A Historical and Comparative Study Van Dongen presents a detailed study of how from Antiquity to today the negligent behaviour of the injured party has influenced claims for damages based on delictual liability and how it evolved into the modern concept of contributory negligence. His research comprises a comparative legal study of the main current developments concerning the concept of contributory negligence in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Restricted Access


EUR €168.00USD $225.00

Biographical Note

Emanuel van Dongen, PhD (2013) in Law, Maastricht University, is an Assistant Professor at the Molengraaff Institute for Private Law, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, and Research Fellow at the Utrecht Centre for Accountability and Liability Law (UCALL). He has published previously on legal history, Roman law and contributory negligence.

Review Quotes

'[...] il lavore recensito deve essere sicuramente apprezente perché dimostra un notevola impegno nella discussione delle fonti e della letteratura, e colma una lacuna negli studi storico-giuridici sul danno extracontrattuale.'
Maria Floriana Cursi, in: Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, 135. band 2018, pp. 818-830.

'Van Dongen [heeft] voor dit boek enorm veel werk [...] verzet in het zoeken en bestuderen van relevante bronnen over een lange periode in de geschiedenis. Vooral voor de middeleeuwen heeft hij daarbij veel meer gedaan dan normaal gesproken van een promovendus verwacht mag worden. Maar ook voor de recentere tijd is een bewonderenswaardig scala aan materiaal geraadpleegd en zo gemakkelijk toegankelijk gemaakt voor andere onderzoekers.'
Tammo Wallinga, in: Rechtsgeleerd Magazijn THEMIS, 2016-1, p. 42-45.

'[...] the book of van Dongen is the product of great effort to accomplish an ambitious and accurately designed historical and comparative research on the rules of contributory negligence. The outcome will be appreciated by both legal historians and comparatists who are interested in the history of private law and the evolution of delictual law.'
Dmitry Poldnikov (Associate Professor of Legal History at Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia), in: Journal on European History of Law, Vol. 5/2014, no. 2, p. 134-135.

Table of contents

Acknowledgments ... xiii
Abbreviations ... xv

Chapter One Introduction ... 1
1.1 The subject of this study ... 1
1.2 Methodology ... 5
1.3 Structure ... 10

Chapter Two Roman Law in Antiquity ... 13
2.1 Introduction ... 13
2.2 The origin of the regula of D. 50.17.203 ... 16
2.3 Alfenus’ reply in the case of the innkeeper ... 30
2.4 Ulpian’s reply in the case of the javelin throwers ... 54
2.5 Ulpian’s reply in the barber case ... 78
2.6 General treatment of all relevant cases in Justinian law ... 98
2.7 Concluding remarks ... 102

Chapter Three Medieval Ius Commune ... 105
3.1 Introduction ... 105
3.2 Medieval Roman legal scholarship ... 109
3.3 Canon law ... 146
3.4 Short comparative remarks ... 177
3.5 Concluding remarks ... 183

Chapter Four Early Modern Period ... 189
4.1 Introduction ... 189
4.2 Legal humanism ... 192
4.3 A general introduction to the period of the Reception of Roman law ... 222
4.4 Roman-Dutch law ... 227
4.5 Usus modernus pandectarum ... 255
4.6 The northern natural law school ... 285
4.7 Concluding remarks ... 298
5.1 Introduction: content, method and structure ... 303
5.2 Codifications around 1800 ... 308
5.3 Conservatism in nineteenth-century legal doctrine and the struggle of nineteenth-century judges ... 312
5.4 Codifications around 1900 ... 331
5.5 Modern contemporary solutions to the problem of contributory negligence ... 339
5.6 Traffic accidents: rise and fall of the all-or-nothing approach? ... 353
5.7 Contributory negligence after the damaging event ... 358
5.8 Harmonisation: rules for the future? ... 362
5.9 Concluding remarks ... 367

Chapter Six Summary and Concluding Remarks ... 373
6.1 Introduction ... 373
6.2 Roman law in Antiquity ... 374
6.3. Medieval ius commune ... 376
6.4 The humanistic contribution ... 379
6.5 Reception, Roman-Dutch law and usus modernus ... 379
6.6 The northern natural law school ... 381
6.7 The concept of contributory negligence in the nineteenth century ... 382
6.8 The concept of contributory negligence in modern and contemporary law ... 384
6.9 To conclude ... 386

Bibliography ... 389

Index of Names ... 453
Index of Sources ... 459
Index of Cases ... 473


All those interested in legal history, particularly of the law of obligations, the concept of contributory negligence, and also those interested in private law and/or (civil) liability law.

Index Card

Collection Information