California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

411. Reliance on Good Conduct of Others

Every person has a right to expect that every other person will use reasonable care [and will not violate the law], unless he or she knows, or should know, that the other person will not use reasonable care [or will violate the law].

New September 2003

Directions for Use

This instruction should not be used if the only other actor is the plaintiff and there is no evidence that the plaintiff acted unreasonably. (Springer v. Reimers (1970) 4 Cal.App.3d 325, 336 [84 Cal.Rptr. 486].)

Sources and Authority

  • The general rule is that “every person has a right to presume that every other person will perform his duty and obey the law and in the absence of reasonable grounds to think otherwise, it is not negligence to assume that he is not exposed to danger which could come to him only from violation of law or duty by such other person.” (Celli v. Sports Car Club of America, Inc. (1972) 29 Cal.App.3d 511, 523 [105 Cal.Rptr. 904].) “However, this rule does not extend to a person who is not exercising ordinary care, nor to one who knows or, by the exercise of such care, would know that the law is not being observed.” (Malone v. Perryman (1964) 226 Cal.App.2d 227, 234 [37 Cal.Rptr. 864].)
  • Defendants are entitled to rely on the reasonable conduct of third parties who owe a duty of care to the plaintiff. (Tucker v. Lombardo (1956) 47 Cal.2d 457, 467 [303 P.2d 1041].) The central issue addressed by the instruction is whether or not the bad act of the third person was foreseeable by the defendant. (Whitton v. State of California (1979) 98 Cal.App.3d 235, 244–246 [159 Cal.Rptr. 405].) “If the likelihood that a third person may act in a particular manner is the hazard or one of the hazards which makes the actor negligent, such an act whether innocent, negligent, intentionally tortious, or criminal does not prevent the actor from being liable for harm caused thereby.” (Rest.2d Torts, § 449; Bigbee v. Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. (1983) 34 Cal.3d 49, 58 [192 Cal.Rptr. 857, 665 P.2d 947].)
  • Many cases involving issues of third-party criminal conduct are analyzed as questions of law—i.e., existence of a duty, which may require analysis of foreseeability. (See Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 678 [25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207]; Ky. Fried Chicken of Cal. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 819 [59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756, 927 P.2d
  • 1260].)
  • In cases where a third party commits a criminal act, the defendant is generally not liable for failure to protect the plaintiff from the resulting harm. The exceptions are (1) where the defendant has a special relationship to the plaintiff, (2) where the defendant has undertaken an obligation to protect the plaintiff, or (3) where the defendant’s conduct created or increased the risk of harm through the misconduct. (Rest.2d Torts, § 302B, com. e.)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 1311–1313

1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 1, Negligence, § 1.02 (Matthew Bender)

4 California Trial Guide, Unit 90, Closing Argument, §§ 90.88, 90.90 (Matthew Bender)

California Products Liability Actions, Ch. 2, Liability for Defective Products, § 2.21 (Matthew Bender)

33 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 380, Negligence (Matthew Bender)

16 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 165, Negligence (Matthew Bender)