RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Dr Samantha Schnobel

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The month’s Research Spotlight is on Samantha Schnobel and her work on doctrinal and theoretical approaches to relational obligations in negligence.

Dr Samantha Schnobel

Broadly speaking, Samantha is interested in how courts understand and later regulate relationships of care individuals form with others, in particular the state and those that hold themselves out to be professionals. This led to two published works: one in the Journal of Professional Negligence and the other in Medical Law Review, focusing on the standard of care applied to those practising in human and nonhuman medicine.

A particular interest of Samantha’s is analysing the how courts construct legal and moral obligations within negligence actions and exposing assumptions that are made about how those relationships come into being and are experienced by claimants. In her work, Samantha asserts that a more holistic and critical approach should be taken in these analyses, focusing on wider factors that bear on the complex relationships we form with those around us. When this approach is adopted, traditional understandings of what it means to assume responsibility for another, for example, are challenged and ought necessarily to be changed. A similar approach can also be applied where the relationships in play would be considered novel or unorthodox, such as our relationships with nonhuman animals. Courts in England and Wales have long considered nonhuman animals objects of personal property, however, in Samantha’s piece entitled Regulating the Veterinary Profession: taking seriously the best interests of the animal she argues that a more holistic analysis of the ‘owner’ – animal – veterinarian paradigm could reveal a triadic relationship more akin to paediatric medicine, and a relationship between an animal and their guardian that is better conceptualised as constitutive, as opposed to proprietary. As a result, courts should not only be open and alive to instances where this is the case, but also look to articulate professional obligations and standards of care which can give effect to these relationships.

Samantha is currently undertaking a new project investigating critical approaches to tort law, focusing on decisions of the Privy Council. In her piece, she analyses whether the Council’s approach to assessing the duty and standard of care in negligence actions differs in former colonies of the British Empire and if so, how. A related question focuses on whether applying decolonial and feminist theories to analysing the relationships involved in these cases, including considerations of gender, race, class, power and vulnerability by the courts could alter outcomes and challenge traditional common law principles more broadly.


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