What is a negligence per se claim?

A negligence per se claim is a concept in which a legislatively imposed standard of care is adopted by the civil courts as defining the conduct of a reasonable and prudent person.

In such a case, the jury is not asked to decide whether the defendant acted as a reasonable, prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.  The statute itself states what a reasonable, prudent person would have done.   If an excuse is not raised, the only inquiry for the jury is whether the defendant violated the statute or regulation and, if so, whether the violation was a proximate cause of the accident. 

For example, in Texas, Statewide Rule 8 as well as Section 85.321 of the Texas Natural Resources Code could both serve as the basis for negligence per se claims related to oilfield contamination.  A statute is presumed to be prospective unless it is clear from a fair reading of the statute that the legislature intended it to apply to both past and present controversies.  Thus, statutes enacted after the alleged conduct cannot support a negligence per se claim.  

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