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What is Duty of Care in California?

What is Duty of Care in California?

According to California Civil Code section 1714(a) “Everyone is responsible, not only for his or her own willful acts but for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person”.

Duty of Care Negligence in California

In cases of negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed a legal duty of care to him. This means that the defendant had to exercise the same degree of ordinary care that another person would do under similar circumstances, or was required to exercise at least reasonable care when acting the way that could potentially harm another one.

Elements of Duty of Care Negligence

In California, the plaintiff can prove the defendant’s negligence by showing the following elements.

  • Defendant had a duty to act in a particular way or refrain from acting
  • Defendant breached his duty
  • The breach of duty by the defendant caused the injury to the plaintiff
  • Defendant’s act or failure to act was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury
  • Plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the injury

Cause of Injury Due to Breach of Duty of Care

The plaintiff must prove that the breach of duty by the defendant was the reason for caused injuries. In California, there are two ways of determining the cause in personal injury cases.

  • The “but for” test:

Mainly, this amounts to the claim that “but for” the actions of the defendant, the incident would not have happened. The “but for” test is applicable in cases that include a single incident causing the injury.

  • The substantial factor test:

The test asks whether or not a reasonable individual would consider the incident to have contributed to the plaintiff’s injury. In case the defendant’s negligence is to be deemed the main factor in the cause of injury, it cannot be a trivial or remote factor.

Examples of Situations Where a Duty of Care Exists

Usually, breaches of a duty of care cases involve an implied relationship. The most common examples of situations where a duty of care exists are the following:

  • Parent to child
  • Doctor to patient
  • Motorist to other drivers, pedestrians, or passengers
  • Nursing home to resident
  • Business owner to a patron
  • Landlord to tenant
  • Homeowner to guests
  • Coach to athlete
  • Teacher to student

How Does a Court Determine Whether a Duty of Care Exists or Not?

The California Supreme Court has set a number of factors that a court must consider in deciding whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff or not:

  • Foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff
  • The connection between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injury
  • Degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered an injury
  • Moral blame attached to the defendant’s actions
  • A policy of avoiding future harm
  • Degree of the burden to the defendant
  • Availability, prevalence, and cost of insurance for the involved risk

Do you need an experienced lawyer in California?

If you have been injured by someone else’s breach of a duty of care, we invite you to contact Kaass Law experienced attorneys today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case.


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