See this as a YouTube video: http://bit.ly/tortofnegligence
There are 5 things to think about when answering a negligence problem. But first, to understand this tort (or civil wrongdoing) let’s think about it practically.
I want you to imagine your walk to work, or if you don’t walk to work, your walk from your car to your front doorstep. Place yourself there and imagine yourself doing it. OK now imagine someone running past you extremely fast and hitting into you. Now imagine you were carrying an antique case that fell on the ground after they hit into you and smashed into pieces. That’s potentially a negligent act. So first you need to think, does this person running past you owe you a duty of care? Well we could say yes, as they are close to you and hit into you. They’re not some stranger in Madagasgar that has nothing to do with you. They are in close proximity to you and it was foreseeable that if they ran to fast they would hit into someone like you walking to work. So that’s one stage. Then think if they were close to you, did they breach the standard a normal person walking on the footpath should owe people? Probably yes, since they were running like a crazy person so fast they hit into you. A reasonable person would walk or run carefully on a footpath, not like an idiot and hit into you. Then you have suffered damage, which is the vase smashing let’s say. Did them hitting into you cause you to drop the vase? In this case yes. It’s not that you dropped it already then they hit into you, they hit into you then you dropped it because of that. So that’s the causation element. Then we need to think if the type of harm is foreseeable. For the vase, if it’s a $100k vase it might not be foreseeable that someone would carry such a randomly fragile and expensive item, so maybe this wouldn’t all be covered as a reasonable person wouldn’t expect to pay that when running negligently. But maybe some of it will be covered. then you need to think if they have any defences, like were you also running like a crazy person and therefore did you contribute to the negligent act by also being negligent?
And those are all the things you need to think about for negligence! That’s the essence of it, someone does something negligent to you and causes you loss. Then you can get into more complicated things, like under the duty of care heading you can think about 1) does someone owe a duty of care for harm caused by omissions? Do public authorities owe a duty of care to citizens? Can someone be vicariously liable for someone else, so that they owe the duty of care instead of the actual wrongdoer? In what situation does a duty of care arise for economic loss? Or, specific situation, to what extent do Councils have a duty of care in respect of defective buildings? There are all sorts of rules in regards to these, but the main thing you want to remember is you walking into work and someone being running past you, they owe you a duty because they are close to you and hit into you and it was foreseeable they would hit into someone like you (a pedestrian) when walking. They’re not in Madagascar and have nothing to do with you. So when thinking of all these different duties of care, just remember whether they’re close to you. And in particular think for public authorities whether it’s fair (from a practical point of view) for them to owe a duty of care when they have so many other things to pay for, it might not be fair. Because remember negligence is about people owing duties for accidental/carelessness, not criminal activity, so deciding whether a public authority should be liable for being careless is harder to figure out compared to whether they should be liable for criminal behaviour for example. And generally the courts will say that no, they shouldn’t be liable for negligence since it will cost the public, will make them behave defensively and is not good from a policy perspective.