Man on the Clapham Omnibus

Published: 02/09/2022 By Allan Fuller

A historical Brixton-to-Clapham horse-drawn bus is on display at  www.londonbusmuseum.com

The man on the Clapham omnibus is a hypothetical ordinary and reasonable person, used by the courts in English law where it is necessary to decide whether a party has acted as a reasonable person would – for example, in a civil action for negligence.  The character is a reasonably educated, intelligent but nondescript person, against whom the defendant's conduct can be measured.

The term was introduced into English law during the Victorian era, and is still an important concept in British law. It is also used in other Commonwealth common law jurisdictions, sometimes with suitable modifications to the phrase as an aid to local comprehension. 

The route of the original "Clapham omnibus" is unknown but London Buses route 88 was briefly branded as "the Clapham Omnibus" in the 1990s and is sometimes associated with the term.
 
The Bus Museum is located at www.brooklandsmuseum.com and there is a curious connection. The concept was used by Lord Justice Greer, in the case of Hall v. Brooklands Auto-Racing Club, to define the standard of care a defendant must live up to in order to avoid being found negligent.