The common law is the body of legal rules created over time by judges as they issue written opinions resolving individual lawsuits. The opinions serve as precedents to guide the resolution of future similar cases. The common law is to be contrasted with positive law, which consists of statutes passed by legislatures.

The common law is concerned primarily with injuries and rights: It asks when and to what extent a party injured by the actions of another should have a remedy against the other party. Its principal subject areas are contracts, property, and torts. Common law originated as customary rules of social conduct that came to be enforced in the English courts. These rules reflected both the practical requirements for a civil society and the community’s ...

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