Chapter 1. A 4,000 Year Perspective on Tort Law - Greek Influences

Following is an excerpt from Shigley & Hadden, Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation & Practice (Thomson Reuters / Westlaw, 2010- present). The lead author, Kenneth L. Shigley, has served as president of the State Bar of Georgia (2011-12), chair of the Institute for Continuing Legal Education in Georgia Board of Trustees (2012-13) and chair of the American Association for Justice Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway & Premises Liability Section (2015-16). The entire book may be purchased at ThomsonReuters.com or accessed through Westlaw.

1:2. Greek Influences

A millennium after Hammurabi, the mythic roots of unwritten Greek customary law appeared in the poetry of Hesiod (c. 700 B.C.) and histories of Herodotus (c. 484--425 B.C.). The emphasis was on fairness and integrity of judges more than the specifics of rules and doctrine, as judges were chosen by the parties much as private mediators and arbitrators are chosen today. However, running through this era was a growing preference for resolving disputes through just compensation rather than the bloody retribution and feuds of old. As Greek philosophy formed the bedrock layer of western political thought, principles of corrective justice emerged. Plato, in The Laws, wrote of “little repeated torts between neighbors” for which there was strict liability to others for either personal harm or invasion of property, and awards of a multiple of pecuniary damages for “churlish” conduct. Aristotle, in Nichomachean Ethics, taught the rectification of marginal inequality created by involuntary transactions in which either an intentional act or an unintentional “mistake”--equivalent to concept of negligence in modern tort law--caused foreseeable injury. The amount of inequality to be rectified was the community's valuation the physical injury due to the defendant's wrongful act. Pericles and Protagoras debated theories of negligence, imputed liability and proximate cause.1 Customary Greek law was first codified by Dracon (c. 622 B.C.), with penalties so harsh as to give us the word “draconian” and as to require reform within a generation. By 594 B.C., Salon was given a year to reform the Athenian constitution, legal code and law courts. Under the Code of Salon, juries of as many as 500 members determined both fault and penalties, a spectacle against which even those who trust modern juries would recoil.2




1 J. W. Jones, Law and Legal Theory of the Greeks 262 (1956); Stone, A Problem for Pericles, 59 Cal. L. Rev 769 (1971).

2 M. Stuart Madden, The Graeco-Roman Antecedents of Modern Tort Law, 44 Brandeis L.J. 865, 877 (Summer 2006); Plato, The Laws; Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Book V.

Client Reviews
"Goes above and beyond and is a mountain of knowledge on spine and brain injuries. He does his research and represents you with a level of excellence. Remains a friend after representing me."
★★★★★
"I have collaborated with Mr. Shigley on several initiatives within Georgia’s Judiciary over the past few years and found him to be a persistent and attentive individual. Ken has taken great pride in his involvement with the projects that I have worked on and he is good at influencing success. Despite his hectic schedule, Ken has always made time to discuss, research and review ideas for the best way to accomplish goals. I look forward to a continued working relationship in this and future roles." Jorge B., CIO, Judicial Council of Georgia
★★★★★
"After having to have a hole drilled in an automobile part at a machine shop 10 years ago, I told my uncle I could have done that. My uncle replied, "You are doing this once these guys do it every day" That simply means if you don't know where to turn, get help and get an expert. Ken was that help when I was severely injured during a fatal accident. Ken and his team at Shigley Law are experts, and are here to help you during your crisis. Ken will be there during the injury, recovery, and trial. He and his firm will work hard to see that you are represented fairly!" Jeremy R.
★★★★★
"Ken is a very kind man. He has a wealth of knowledge and is going above and beyond to help us while representing our case." Candy F., spouse of catastrophic injury client, Plains, GA
★★★★★
"I know Ken as trial lawyer of highest standards. Ken is knowledgeable and innovative and that translates to success in the courtroom. He is outgoing, compassionate and personable which makes him a pleasure to work with in any setting." Eric B., Attorney, Canton, GA
★★★★★