2.4.1 Breach of Duty: The Standard of Care - Introduction

Welcome to the fourth lesson of the second topic in this module guide – Breach of Duty; The Standard of Care. The breach of a duty will appear as one aspect of any larger negligence problem, and is a factual or evidence-based inquiry.

At the completion of this section, you should be comfortable in being able to identify an appropriate standard of care, and deciding whether the defendant breached that standard. You will understand that the general standard of care is objective, and is normally ‘the reasonable person’ standard, though there are exceptions to this rule.

This section begins by explaining that the standard of care is a test based in reasonable foreseeability, before discussing how to ascertain the standard of care for different defendants. Within this is a discussion of particular types of defendant who attract particular standards. The section goes on to clarify the reasonable standard of care, as it may vary according to a number of factors, such as the nature of the defendant or the activity being undertaken. Finally, the section discusses the process of proving a breach on a balance of probabilities.

Goals for this section

  • To identify the appropriate standard of care.
  • To establish whether the defendant has breached that standard.

Objectives for this section

  • To be able to establish what standard of care applies.
  • To understand that the general standard is the objective ‘reasonable person’ standard, but that there are exceptions to this rule.
  • To understand how this standard may shift according to the magnitude of risk, the cost of precautions available and the social value of the activity.
  • To understand the process of proving breach, including via res ipsa loquitor and in cases involving criminal proceedings.

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