1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Diligence

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DILIGENCE, in law, the care which a person is bound to exercise in his relations with others. The possible degrees of diligence are of course numerous, and the same degree is not required in all cases. Thus a mere depositary would not be held bound to the same degree of diligence as a person borrowing an article for his own use and benefit. Jurists, following the divisions of the civil law, have concurred in fixing three approximate standards of diligence—viz. ordinary (diligentia), less than ordinary (levissima diligentia) and more than ordinary (exactissima diligentia). Ordinary or common diligence is defined by Story (On Bailments) as “that degree of diligence which men in general exert in respect of their own concerns.” So Sir William Jones:—“This care, which every person of common prudence and capable of governing a family takes of his own concerns, is a proper measure of that which would uniformly be required in performing every contract, if there were not strong reasons for exacting in some of them a greater and permitting in others a less degree of attention” (Essay on Bailments). The highest degree of diligence would be that which only very prudent persons bestow on their own concerns; the lowest, that which even careless persons bestow on their own concerns. The want of these various degrees of diligence is negligence in corresponding degrees. These approximations indicate roughly the greater or less severity with which the law will judge the performance of different classes of contracts; but English judges have been inclined to repudiate the distinction as a useless refinement of the jurists. Thus Baron Rolfe could see no difference between negligence and gross negligence; it was the same thing with the addition of a vituperative epithet. See Negligence.

Diligence, in Scots law, is a general term for the process by which persons, lands or effects are attached on execution, or in security for debt.