First Principles of Business Law

The tort of Negligence

4.2. Establishing a duty situation or relationship

4.2.1. How the courts establish a duty situation or relationship




Even when harm caused by a wrogdoer is foreseeable, liability for such harm only arises if there exists a 'duty relationship or situation' between the wrongdoer and the person harmed.  In other words, a duty of care requires a person to prevent forseeable harm to those persons to whom they are in a duty situation or relationship.

The existence of a duty situation or relationship can be determined in one of two ways:

  • Asking whether the case involves a situation or relationship which has been previously recognised as giving rise to a duty of care.
  • Applying general principles from which it can be deduced whether or not a duty of care exists in the particular circumstances that have arisen.

 These alternatives will be explained in the following pages.

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