LexInter | January 14, 2012 | 0 Comments


Fault is the common law source of liability in the Civil Code of 1804.

The Civil Code institutionalized civil liability, which is a major innovation of the Napoleonic Code.

The legislature of 1804 based liability on fault. He was largely inspired by the canonist tradition. Domat thus expressed the philosophy of the law, founded on the ” wrongs ” which one finds as the basis of the law of responsibility in common law ( tort law )  :

All the losses and all the damages which can occur by the act of any person […] must be repaired by the one whose recklessness or other fault gave rise to it. Because it is a wrong which he did, even though he would not have intended to harm “ (Domat, Les loix civiles .., L. II, t. VIII, 5, VI, n ° 1 )

The drafters of the Civil Code had a subjective conception of fault, which involved an analysis of the behavior of the individual as being blameworthy.

The Civil Code replaced the casuistry of the Old Law by a generalization expressed by the general formula of article 1382 of the Civil Code.

 Any fact whatsoever of man, which causes damage to others, obliges him through whose fault it has happened to repair it.

This general formula is accompanied by a second, in article 1383 of the Civil Code.

Everyone is responsible for the damage he has caused not only by his own act, but also by his negligence or recklessness.

Articles 1382 and 1383 have a universal vocation. They create a general duty of care and diligence. Thanks to the abstract definition of misdemeanors and quasi-delicts they make it possible to protect victims from any damage whatsoever. They are a means for the courts to adapt the law to technological developments while awaiting possible legislative intervention.

Subjective responsibility is critically presented as facilitating the spirit of initiative and pushing for action, while objective responsibility, together with the theory of risk, would encourage stagnation. The precautionary principle is presented as the excess of a desire for “zero risk”.

La responsabilité sans faute a été développée par la jurisprudence de la Cour Suprême de Californie  dans les années 60 comme un élément d’une mutualisation des risques par le biais de l’assurance privée. La réparation du risque qui  pèse sur celui qui va supporter le risque lui est attribuée parce qu’il est le mieux à même de l’assurer, et de répercuter le coût sur les consommateurs et utilisateurs . Le développement économique de la Californie  à cette époque parait démontrer que loin de conduire à l’immobilisme la théorie du risque peut au contraire concilier initiative économique et compensation des inégalités devant le risque.

Civil law doctrine distinguishes between so-called quasi-tort, a source of quasi-tort liability, and contractual fault, a source of contractual liability.

The quasi-tortious fault is that which causes a physical damage, patrimonial or moral outside any contractual relationship. It results from the negligence or the ineptitude of its author.

The victim’s right to compensation may be reduced or dismissed by the judge when the victim himself has caused a fault which has caused, facilitated or aggravated the consequences of the damage.

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