Define: Constructed Knowledge

Constructed Knowledge
Constructed Knowledge
Quick Summary of Constructed Knowledge

Constructed knowledge refers to information or understanding that has been created or developed through a deliberate process rather than being directly observed or experienced. This can include knowledge that has been synthesised from various sources, such as research, analysis, or interpretation. In a legal context, constructed knowledge may be relevant in cases involving intellectual property, plagiarism, or the admissibility of evidence. It is important to consider the reliability and credibility of constructed knowledge when evaluating its use in legal proceedings.

Full Definition Of Constructed Knowledge

Constructed knowledge, often referred to as imputed or inferred knowledge, is a critical concept in legal contexts, particularly in the realms of corporate law, contract law, and tort law. This concept operates on the principle that an individual or entity is deemed to have knowledge of certain facts, even if they do not actually possess such knowledge. The notion of constructed knowledge ensures accountability and promotes due diligence, aiming to prevent parties from evading liability by claiming ignorance. This legal overview will explore the origins, applications, implications, and controversies surrounding constructed knowledge in British law.

Historical Context and Evolution

The roots of constructed knowledge can be traced back to common law principles, where courts have long recognised that individuals and entities should not benefit from wilful blindness or negligent ignorance. The doctrine evolved to address situations where actual knowledge is difficult to prove, yet it is reasonable to hold a party accountable for certain information that they should have known.

Constructed Knowledge in Different Legal Domains

Corporate Law

In corporate law, constructed knowledge is essential in maintaining corporate governance and accountability. Directors and officers of a company are often held to a standard of knowledge that extends beyond their actual awareness. The Companies Act 2006 stipulates that directors must exercise reasonable care, skill, and diligence, which implicitly includes an obligation to be informed about the company’s affairs.

For instance, if a director fails to identify fraudulent activities within the company due to a lack of oversight, they may still be held liable under the concept of constructed knowledge. This principle ensures that directors cannot escape liability by claiming ignorance of the misconduct occurring under their supervision.

Contract Law

In contract law, constructed knowledge plays a significant role in the interpretation and enforcement of contracts. Parties to a contract are expected to possess certain knowledge relevant to the contract’s subject matter. Constructed knowledge can affect various aspects of a contract, including its formation, performance, and breach.

A notable application is in the context of misrepresentation. If a party to a contract makes a false statement, the other party may claim misrepresentation. The law may infer that the misrepresenting party had knowledge of the falsehood if it is something they ought to have known, thus holding them liable for damages.

Tort Law

In tort law, constructed knowledge often emerges in negligence claims. The duty of care owed by individuals or entities includes an expectation that they are aware of certain risks or hazards that they should reasonably know about. This expectation prevents defendants from avoiding liability by asserting ignorance of facts that a reasonable person in their position would have known.

For example, in premises liability cases, property owners are expected to know about hazardous conditions on their property. If a visitor is injured due to an unsafe condition that the owner claims not to have known about, the court may impute knowledge to the owner based on the principle of constructive knowledge, given that a reasonable inspection would have revealed the danger.

Legal Standards and Tests

Objective Test

The objective test is frequently applied to determine whether constructed knowledge should be imputed to a party. This test assesses what a reasonable person in the same circumstances would have known. The standard is not subjective to the individual’s actual knowledge but instead considers what they ought to have known given their position, responsibilities, and context.

Reasonable Person Standard

The reasonable person standard is a cornerstone in the evaluation of constructed knowledge. This legal standard asks whether a hypothetical reasonable person, acting with ordinary prudence, would have known the pertinent facts. It is used extensively across different areas of law to assess whether a party should be held accountable for knowledge they did not explicitly possess.

Applications and Case Law

Barings Bank Collapse

A prominent case illustrating constructed knowledge in corporate law is the collapse of Barings Bank in 1995. Nick Leeson, a rogue trader, engaged in unauthorised trading activities that ultimately led to the bank’s downfall. The directors were criticised for their lack of oversight and failure to detect Leeson’s activities. Constructed knowledge was a key factor in the analysis of the directors’ responsibilities, highlighting their duty to be aware of significant trading risks within their purview.

Hedley Byrne & Co Ltd v Heller & Partners Ltd

In contract law, the case of Hedley Byrne & Co Ltd v Heller & Partners Ltd [1964] AC 465 is significant. Here, the House of Lords held that a party providing a reference owed a duty of care to the recipient. Even though there was no contractual relationship, the concept of constructed knowledge implied that the party giving the reference should have known the potential impact of their statements, thus bearing responsibility for the negligent misrepresentation.

Donoghue v Stevenson

The landmark case of Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562, while primarily establishing the modern law of negligence, also touches on constructed knowledge. The case introduced the neighbour principle, which implies that individuals must avoid acts or omissions that can foreseeably harm others. This foreseeability aspect often involves constructed knowledge, where a defendant is expected to know the potential consequences of their actions on others.

Implications and Criticisms

Promoting Accountability

One of the primary benefits of constructed knowledge is the promotion of accountability. By holding parties to a standard of knowledge they should possess, the law encourages diligence and prevents wilful ignorance. This is particularly important in corporate governance, where directors and officers are expected to be vigilant and informed about their company’s activities.

Legal Certainty

Constructed knowledge contributes to legal certainty by establishing clear expectations about the level of knowledge parties should have. This clarity helps in the fair adjudication of disputes and ensures that parties cannot escape liability through claims of ignorance.

Challenges and Controversies

However, constructed knowledge is not without its challenges and controversies. Critics argue that it can sometimes lead to unfair outcomes, particularly when parties are held liable for knowledge that was genuinely beyond their capacity to acquire. Additionally, the subjective interpretation of what a “reasonable person” should know can lead to inconsistent applications and uncertainty in the law.


Constructed knowledge is a pivotal concept in British law, ensuring that parties cannot evade liability through claims of ignorance and promoting a standard of due diligence and accountability. Its applications in corporate law, contract law, and tort law demonstrate its broad relevance and impact. While it provides legal certainty and upholds principles of fairness, it also faces criticisms for potential unfairness and inconsistent application. As the legal landscape evolves, constructed knowledge will continue to play a crucial role in shaping the responsibilities and liabilities of individuals and entities in the United Kingdom.

Constructed Knowledge FAQ'S

Constructed knowledge refers to knowledge that is created through a process of interpretation, analysis, and synthesis of information and experiences.

Yes, constructed knowledge can be considered valid in legal proceedings as long as it is based on reliable sources and sound reasoning.

Objective knowledge is based on facts and evidence that can be verified through empirical research, while constructed knowledge is based on subjective interpretation and analysis of information.

Yes, constructed knowledge can be used as evidence in court if it is relevant and reliable.

Examples of constructed knowledge in legal cases include expert testimony, psychological evaluations, and forensic analysis.

Constructed knowledge is evaluated for reliability based on the credibility of the sources used, the methodology employed, and the consistency of the findings.

Judges play a critical role in evaluating the admissibility and reliability of constructed knowledge in legal proceedings.

Lawyers can use constructed knowledge to support their arguments by presenting expert testimony, citing relevant research, and using logical reasoning to connect the evidence to their case.

Ethical considerations involved in using constructed knowledge in legal cases include ensuring that the evidence is reliable and relevant, avoiding bias and prejudice, and respecting the rights and dignity of all parties involved.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

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