Butterflies in the Zone of Danger

As I studied my tort law focused on duty and breach in negligence, the zone of danger rule is discussed and my mind wandered to things more esoteric. Specifically the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect is a phrase that encapsulates the more technical notion of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory. Small variations of the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system. In Law, the Zone of Danger Rule allows a plaintiff to recover for emotional distress or physical harm caused by a defendant’s negligent conduct if the plaintiff was in a location where the defendant’s conduct could have caused physical harm to the plaintiff. The theory supporting this doctrine is that the likely truth of a claim of emotional distress is increased if the person making the claim came close to suffering physical harm from the conduct that caused the person’s emotional distress. The amusing conjunction here is that our actions or deeds right or wrong, may affect not only those in close proximity, but possibly others located clear across the universe for better or worse. Back to my studies.

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