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Written by: Steven R. Clawson
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Discussions of “duty of care” revolve almost exclusively around personal injury. The most common issue examined in these cases is whether a duty of care was owed by one person to another.

A breach of a duty of care is synonymous with negligence. For this reason, cases examining duty of care are essentially cases examining whether a person was negligent.

Duty of Care as Public Policy  

The State of California set into statutes what is ordinarily a creature of court decisions. California Civil Code §1714(a) set out a “duty of care” that all persons owe to each other, save clear exceptions.

In relevant part, California Civil Code §1714(a) states, “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts but also 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 . . . .”

To break this statute into pieces, a person is negligent in when they:

  • Owe a duty of care to another, 
  • Breaches their duty to the other, and
  • Injure the other as a result.

It is hard to pin down the concept of breaching a duty of care, but the California Supreme Court elegantly phrased it as to whether a person acted as a reasonable person would “in view of the probability of injury to others.”

In this simple statement, we can understand the spirit of what Civil Code §1714 is trying to achieve.

Examples of Duty of Care

To understand when a person might have a duty of care to another, consider the following examples:

  • A property owner has a duty of care to keep their premises in a safe condition for visitors;
  • Motor vehicle drivers have a duty of care to obey traffic laws;
  • A parent has a duty of care to a child;
  • A doctor has a duty of care to patient; and
  • A business owner has a duty of care to a patron.

In these examples, we see the common-sense obligations that we owe to our fellow citizens when we act or operate in a certain societal role. 

Factors Determining Duty of Care

In examining cases where there is an alleged breach of a duty of care, California courts examine several factors. While this list is not exhaustive, it can give a flavor of what courts weigh:

  • The closeness of connection between one person’s conduct and another’s injury,
  • The foreseeability of harm,
  • The policy of preventing future harm, and
  • Moral blame for the action of the person causing the harm.

The above selected examples demonstrate that the courts weigh many factors. It also demonstrates that courts are very wary of expanding or narrowing the scope of the duty of care unless a clear case to do so is presented.

Wells Call Injury Lawyers Can Evaluate Duty of Care

At this point, you have a good idea of how California evaluates duty of care and some of the many factors that contribute to the analysis.

At Wells Call, we thoroughly examine each case and work to protect your rights and collect the money that you are owed for your injuries. In fact, we’ve recovered over $500 million on behalf of injured clients.

Contact us today for a free consultation. 

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