Law of Negligence

December 21, 2017 Law

What is negligence? Negligence is a legal concept in the common law legal systems mostly applied in tort cases to achieve monetary compensation for physical and mental injuries. Negligence is a type of tort. “Negligence” is not the same as “carelessness”, because someone might be exercising as much care as they are capable of, yet still fall below the level of competence expected of them. It is the opposite of “diligence”. It can be generally defined as conduct that is culpable because it falls short of what a reasonable person would do to protect another individual from foreseeable risks of harm.

Through civil litigation, if an injured person proves that another person acted negligently to cause his injury, he can recover damages to compensate for his harm. Proving a case for negligence can potentially entitle the injured plaintiff to compensation for harm to their body, property, mental well-being, financial status, or intimate relationships. However, because negligence cases are very fact-specific, this general definition does not fully explain the concept of when the law will require one person to compensate another for losses caused by accidental injury.

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Further, the law of negligence at common law is only one aspect of the law of liability. Although resulting damages must be proven in order to recover compensation in a negligence action, the nature and extent of those damages are not the primary focus of negligence cases. Negligence suits have historically been analyzed in stages, called elements, similar to the analysis of crimes. An important concept related to elements is that if a plaintiff fails to prove any one element of his claim, he loses on the entire tort claim. For example, let’s assume that a particular tort has five elements.

Each element must be proven. If the plaintiff proves only four of the five elements, the plaintiff has not succeeded in making out his claim. Common law jurisdictions may differ slightly in the exact classification of the elements of negligence, but the elements that must be established in every negligence case are: duty, breach, causation, and damages. Negligence can be conceived of as having just three elements – conduct, causation and damages. More often, it is said to have four (duty, breach, causation and damages) or five (duty, breach, actual cause, proximate cause, and damages).

Each would be correct, depending on how much someone is seeking. Professor Robertson of the University of Texas has said that ” The broad agreement on the conceptual model entails recognition that the five elements are best defined with care and kept separate. But in practice, several varieties of confusion or conceptual mistakes have sometimes occurred. ” What is the famous English case that developed the law of negligence? The appellant and a friend went to a cafe, where the friend ordered some ginger beer for the appellant, served in an opaque bottle.

The bottle was apparently contaminated by a decomposed snail. The appellant drank some of the ginger beer before discovering the decomposed snail, and became ill. She sued the respondent, the manufacturer of the ginger beer, in the tort of negligence. The respondent applied on a preliminary point of law to have the action struck out on the basis that, in these circumstances, a manufacturer owed no duty of care to a consumer. The action was struck out, and so the appellant appealed to the House of Lords. This is the case of Donoghue v.

Stevenson in 1932, that illustrates the law of negligence, laying the foundations of the fault principle around the Commonwealth. The Pursuer, Donoghue, drank ginger beer given to her by a friend, who bought it from a shop. The beer was supplied by a manufacturer under a certain Stevenson in Scotland. While drinking the drink, Ms. Donoghue discovered the remains of a decomposed slug. She then sued Stevenson, though there was no relationship of contract, as the friend had made the payment. As there was no contract the doctrine of privity prevented a direct action against the manufacturer, Andrew Smith.

In his ruling, justice Lord MacMillan defined a new category of delict because it was analogous to previous cases about people hurting each other. Lord Atkin interpreted the biblical passages to ‘love thy neighbour,’ as the legal requirement to ‘not harm thy neighbour. ‘ He then went on to define neighbour as “persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions that are called in question. ” Reasonably foreseeable harm must be compensated.

This is the first principle of negligence. A contract is not necessary. Ironically, while at the time of Donoghue, plaintiffs sought to hang their hats on any contract they could, today often the opposite is the case, such as plaintiffs suing in tort for damages in order to avoid restrictions imposed upon them by contracts they have entered into. Manufacturer’s liability. The actual decision in Donoghue v. Stevenson, or the ratio decidendi, related to the imposition of liability on manufacturers under certain narrow (by today’s standards) conditions.

To conclude, Negligence is a distinct tort. The decision settled that negligence as a tort or civil wrong, stood by itself and that it could be actionable in any circumstances in which one person suffered personal injury or physical property damage as a direct, close and foreseeable result of the act or omission of another. Litigants do not have to rely on special relationships to prove their cases nor is negligence a dependent component of other torts.


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