Document Type


Publication Date



The standard of care to be applied in tort cases involving mentally disabled people has not been reconsidered in recent years. Traditional rationales for the "objective" standard are less persuasive in the context of current legal approaches to the rights of mentally ill and retarded persons. Analogies to children (especially the concept of "mental age") and to physically handicapped adults merit reexamination. The objective standard of care for mentally disabled defendants was an outgrowth of the ideology of confinement-an ideology that society has since abandoned. Adoption of a subjective standard would not right a vast number of grave injustices, nor would it dramatically ease the burdens of the courts. It would probably have no effect on the overall number of accidents in society, nor would it significantly shift the burden of their cost. But on balance, it may be seen as a modest step toward equitable treatment of the mentally handicapped before the law.

Publication Title

American Bar Foundation Research Journal



First Page


Last Page



disability law



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.