Pembroke Law Lecturer Publishes New Biography of the Reasonable Person


Many congratulations to Pembroke alumnus turned Senior Retained Lecturer in Law, Dr Valentin Jeutner, who has recently published The Reasonable Person: A Legal Biography – a book which adopts a pseudo-biographical style in order to explore the purpose of using ‘the reasonable person’ in legal contexts to help judges make decisions.

The book forms the first biography of law’s most important and most controversial figure: the reasonable person. Ever since the reasonable person appeared in English court rooms in the early 19th century, judges, lawyers and juries rely on it when evaluating whether the behaviour of a particular person was negligent or when considering how to interpret particular passages in a contract. In these situations, judges ask: how would a reasonable person have behaved, or how would a reasonable person interpret this particular clause? But although courts frequently refer to the reasonable person, little is known about the precise origins of this concept and the characteristics of this fictional character. Following the figure from its earliest roots in the legal systems of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome all the way to colonial courts, onto battlefields and into self-driving cars, the book argues that the precise characteristics of the reasonable person are less important. Rather, the key function of the reasonable person is to invite judges, jury-members, and lawyers to take another person's perspective when assessing their own or another person's conduct.

Valentin studied law (BA Jurisprudence) at Pembroke between 2008 and 2011, before returning to Pembroke two years later as a Stipendiary Lecturer. He has taught law at Pembroke since, first as a Junior Research Fellow, then as Research Associate, before becoming Senior Retained Lecturer. Alongside his teaching work at Pembroke, he is also an Associate Professor of Law at Lund University in Sweden. 

The book can be found here.

Left: Dr Valentin Jeutner. Right: the front cover of The Reasonable Person