CACI No. 400. Negligence—Essential Factual Elements

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2017 edition)

Download PDF
400.Negligence—Essential Factual Elements
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she] 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 June 2005, December 2007, December 2011
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
• “[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 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.)
• “[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].)
• “ ‘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.)
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 831–838, 860–862,
865, 866
California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) §§ 1.4–1.18
1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 1, Negligence: Duty and Breach, §§ 1.01–1.31,
Ch. 2, Causation, §§ 2.01–2.11, Ch. 3, Proof of Negligence, §§ 3.01–3.34 (Matthew
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)

© Judicial Council of California.