A failure to act causing physical harm to persons or property

Example: B is a 50 year old man who appears in generally good health except for occasional aches in his joints. B consults A, a doctor, about his aches. Since B makes no mention of serious symptoms, A does not prescribe any treatment and does not carry out tests that are considered routine for male patients of this age, such as tests for prostate cancer. One year after consulting A, B is diagnosed with prostate cancer which has advanced to the stage of being untreatable. B is given six months to live.

Comment: In this example, the harm to B was caused by A's failure or omission to act. Generally, there is no liability in Negligence for omissions unless, in particular circumstances, a defendant had a positive legal duty to act. Such circumstances include situations where the plaintiff relies or depends on a defendant to take positive action to avoid potential harm. The necessary reliance normally exists in a patient and doctor relationship. It has also been held to exist in the relationship between a student and school authority; a prisoner and prison authority; a client and their solicitor; and users of municipal facilities, and the relevant city council.