Contributory Negligence Rule Is Even Worse Than the One Bite Rule

Adam Tinsley, 11, of Waynesboro, Virginia, was seriously injured by a pit bull last week. He has a laceration on his face that certainly will end up being an obvious scar. (See photo, to the right.) 

But he will never collect compensation, even for a little bit of scar reduction treatment. That is because this accident happened in Virginia, where the pertinent laws are exactly the same as they were when Virginia was just a colony of England. I am referring to the contributory negligence rule and the one-bite rule. 

I have written a great deal about the one-bite rule. The article about Adam’s accident features a lot of quotes from me about it. (Click here to read it.) But there is an even greater villain at large in Virginia, and it is the contributory negligence rule. This ancient English law says that even if a victim is only one percent responsible for an accident, he can recover nothing. Only 4 American states follow this rule, and Virginia is one of them. (Click here to read about the dog bite laws of Virginia.)

Like the one-bite rule, the contributory negligence rule is completely out of place in modern America. We believe that every person is required to take responsibility for his actions. If a dog owner is 99% at fault and the child who was injured is only one percent at fault, why should the dog owner escape any civil liability at all?