CACI 400 Negligence—Essential Factual Elements

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

400 Negligence—Essential Factual Elements

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] was harmed by [name of defendant]’s negligence. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1.That [name of defendant] was negligent;

2.That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and

3.That [name of defendant]’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.

New September 2003; Revised February 2005, June 2005, December 2007, December 2011

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Directions for Use

In medical malpractice or professional negligence cases, the word “medical” or “professional” should be added before the word “negligence” in the first paragraph.

The word “harm” is used throughout these instructions, instead of terms like “loss,” “injury,” and “damage,” because “harm” is all-purpose and suffices in their place.

Sources and Authority

General Duty to Exercise Due Care. Civil Code section 1714(a).

“Although it is true that some exceptions have been made to the general principle that a person is liable for injuries caused by his failure to exercise reasonable care in the circumstances, it is clear that in the absence of statutory provision declaring an exception to the fundamental principle enunciated by section 1714 of the Civil Code, no such exception should be made unless clearly supported by public policy.” (Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 112 [70 Cal.Rptr. 97, 443 P.2d 561].)

“ ‘The elements of a cause of action for negligence are well established. They are “(a) a legal duty to use due care; (b) a breach of such legal duty; [and] (c) the breach as the proximate or legal cause of the resulting injury.” ’ ” (Ladd v. County of San Mateo (1996) 12 Cal.4th 913, 917 [50 Cal.Rptr.2d 309, 911 P.2d 496].)

“Breach is the failure to meet the standard of care.” (Coyle v. Historic Mission Inn Corp. (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 627, 643 [234 Cal.Rptr.3d 330].)

“The element of causation requires there to be a connection between the defendant’s breach and the plaintiff’s injury.” (Coylesupra, 24 Cal.App.5th at p. 645.)

“ ‘In most cases, courts have fixed no standard of care for tort liability more precise than that of a reasonably prudent person under like circumstances.’ This is because ‘[e]ach case presents different conditions and situations. What would be ordinary care in one case might be negligence in another.’ ” (Coylesupra, 24 Cal.App.5th at pp. 639–640, internal citation omitted.)

“ ‘ “[I]t is the further function of the court to determine and formulate the standard of conduct to which the duty requires the defendant to conform.” [Citation.] [¶] The formulation of the standard of care is a question of law for the court. [Citations.] Once the court has formulated the standard, its application to the facts of the case is a task for the trier of fact if reasonable minds might differ as to whether the defendant’s conduct has conformed to the standard. [Citations.]’ ” (Regents of University of California v. Superior Court (2018) 29 Cal.App.5th 890, 902–903 [240 Cal.Rptr.3d 675].)

“The first element, duty, ‘may be imposed by law, be assumed by the defendant, or exist by virtue of a special relationship.’ ” (Doe v. United States Youth Soccer Assn., Inc. (2017) 8 Cal.App.5th 1118, 1128 [214 Cal.Rptr.3d 552].)

“[T]he existence of a duty is a question of law for the court.” (Ky. Fried Chicken of Cal. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 819 [59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756, 927 P.2d 1260].)

“In the Rowland [Rowland, supra, 69 Cal.2d at p. 113] decision, this court identified several considerations that, when balanced together, may justify a departure from the fundamental principle embodied in Civil Code section 1714: ‘the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff, the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, the closeness of the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the defendant’s conduct, the policy of preventing future harm, the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to the community of imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting liability for breach, and the availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved.’ As we have also explained, however, in the absence of a statutory provision establishing an exception to the general rule of Civil Code section 1714, courts should create one only where ‘clearly supported by public policy.’ ” (Cabral v. Ralphs Grocery Co. (2011) 51 Cal.4th 764, 771 [122 Cal.Rptr.3d 313, 248 P.3d 1170], internal citations omitted.)

“[T]he analysis of foreseeability for purposes of assessing the existence or scope of a duty is different, and more general, than it is for assessing whether any such duty was breached or whether a breach caused a plaintiff’s injuries. ‘[I]n analyzing duty, the court’s task ‘ “ ‘is not to decide whether a particular plaintiff’s injury was reasonably foreseeable in light of a particular defendant’s conduct, but rather to evaluate more generally whether the category of negligent conduct at issue is sufficiently likely to result in the kind of harm experienced that liability may appropriately be imposed on the negligent party.’ ” ’ ” ‘The jury, by contrast, considers “foreseeability” in two more focused, fact-specific settings. First, the jury may consider the likelihood or foreseeability of injury in determining whether, in fact, the particular defendant’s conduct was negligent in the first place. Second, foreseeability may be relevant to the jury’s determination of whether the defendant’s negligence was a proximate or legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury.’ ” (Staats v. Vintner’s Golf Club, LLC (2018) 25 Cal.App.5th 826, 837 [236 Cal.Rptr.3d 236], original italics, internal citation omitted.)

“A defendant does not owe a legal duty to protect against third party conduct, unless there exists a special relationship between the defendant and the plaintiff. In that circumstance, ‘[i]n addition to the special relationship … , there must also be evidence showing facts from which the trier of fact could reasonably infer that the [defendant] had prior actual knowledge, and thus must have known, of the offender’s assaultive propensities. [Citation.]’ In short, the third party’s misconduct must be foreseeable to the defendant.” (Doe v. Los Angeles County Dept. of Children & Family Services (2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 675, 682–683 [250 Cal.Rptr.3d 62], original italics.)

“[T]he concept of foreseeability of risk of harm in determining whether a duty should be imposed is to be distinguished from the concept of ‘ “foreseeability” in two more focused, fact-specific settings’ to be resolved by a trier of fact. ‘First, the [trier of fact] may consider the likelihood or foreseeability of injury in determining whether, in fact, the particular defendant’s conduct was negligent in the first place. Second, foreseeability may be relevant to the [trier of fact’s] determination of whether the defendant’s negligence was a proximate or legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury.’ ” (Burns v. Neiman Marcus Group, Inc. (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 479, 488, fn. 8 [93 Cal.Rptr.3d 130], internal citation omitted.)

“By making exceptions to Civil Code section 1714’s general duty of ordinary care only when foreseeability and policy considerations justify a categorical no-duty rule, we preserve the crucial distinction between a determination that the defendant owed the plaintiff no duty of ordinary care, which is for the court to make, and a determination that the defendant did not breach the duty of ordinary care, which in a jury trial is for the jury to make. … While the court deciding duty assesses the foreseeability of injury from ‘the category of negligent conduct at issue,’ if the defendant did owe the plaintiff a duty of ordinary care the jury ‘may consider the likelihood or foreseeability of injury in determining whether, in fact, the particular defendant’s conduct was negligent in the first place.’ An approach that instead focused the duty inquiry on case-specific facts would tend to ‘eliminate the role of the jury in negligence cases, transforming the question of whether a defendant breached the duty of care under the facts of a particular case into a legal issue to be decided by the court … .’ ” (Cabral, supra, 51 Cal.4th at pp. 772–773, original italics, internal citations omitted.)

“[W]hile foreseeability with respect to duty is determined by focusing on the general character of the event and inquiring whether such event is ‘likely enough in the setting of modern life that a reasonably thoughtful [person] would take account of it in guiding practical conduct’, foreseeability in evaluating negligence and causation requires a ‘more focused, fact-specific’ inquiry that takes into account a particular plaintiff’s injuries and the particular defendant’s conduct.” (Laabs v. Southern California Edison Company (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 1260, 1273 [97 Cal.Rptr.3d 241], internal citation omitted.)

“The issue here is whether [defendant]—separate from other legal and practical reasons it had to prevent injury of any kind to the public—had a tort duty to guard against negligently causing what we and others have called ‘purely economic loss[es].’ We use that term as a shorthand for ‘pecuniary or commercial loss that does not arise from actionable physical, emotional or reputational injury to persons or physical injury to property.’ And although [defendant] of course had a tort duty to guard against the latter kinds of injury, we conclude it had no tort duty to guard against purely economic losses.” (Southern California Gas Leak Cases (2019) 7 Cal.5th 391, 398 [247 Cal.Rptr.3d 632, 441 P.3d 881], internal citations omitted.)

“[Defendant] relies on the rule that a person has no general duty to safeguard another from harm or to rescue an injured person. But that rule has no application where the person has caused another to be put in a position of peril of a kind from which the injuries occurred.” (Carlsen v. Koivumaki (2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 879, 883 [174 Cal.Rptr.3d 339].)

“A defendant may owe a duty to protect the plaintiff from third party conduct if the defendant has a special relationship with either the plaintiff or the third party.” (University of Southern California v. Superior Court (2018) 30 Cal.App.5th 429, 440 [241 Cal.Rptr.3d 616].)

“ ‘Typically, in special relationships, “the plaintiff is particularly vulnerable and dependent upon the defendant who, correspondingly, has some control over the plaintiff’s welfare. [Citation.]” [Citation.] A defendant who is found to have a “special relationship” with another may owe an affirmative duty to protect the other person from foreseeable harm, or to come to the aid of another in the face of ongoing harm or medical emergency.’ ” (Carlsen, supra, 227 Cal.App.4th at p. 893.)

“Generally, a greater degree of care is owed to children because of their lack of capacity to appreciate risks and avoid danger. [Citation.] Consequently, California courts have frequently recognized special relationships between children and their adult caregivers that give rise to a duty to prevent harms caused by the intentional or criminal conduct of third parties.” (Doe, supra, 8 Cal.App.5th at p. 1129, internal citations omitted.)

“[P]ostsecondary schools do have a special relationship with students while they are engaged in activities that are part of the school’s curriculum or closely related to its delivery of educational services.” (The Regents of the University of California v. Superior Court (2018) 4 Cal.5th 607, 624–625 [230 Cal.Rptr.3d 415, 413 P.3d 656], original italics.)

“[A] university’s duty to protect students from foreseeable acts of violence is governed by the ordinary negligence standard of care, namely ‘that degree of care which people of ordinarily prudent behavior could be reasonably expected to exercise under the circumstances.’ ” (Regents of University of California, supra, 29 Cal.App.5th at p. 904.)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 1138, 1450–1460, 1484–1491
California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) §§ 1.4–1.18
1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 1, Negligence: Duty and Breach, §§ 1.02, 1.12, Ch. 2, Causation, § 2.02, Ch. 3, Proof of Negligence, § 3.01 (Matthew Bender)
33 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 380, Negligence, § 380.10 (Matthew Bender)
16 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 165, Negligence, §§ 165.10, 165.20 (Matthew Bender)