California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

414. Amount of Caution Required in Dangerous Situations

People must be extremely careful when they deal with dangerous items or participate in dangerous activities. [Insert type of dangerous item or activity] is dangerous in and of itself. The risk of harm is so great that the failure to use extreme caution is negligence.

New September 2003

Directions for Use

An instruction on the standard of care for extremely dangerous activities is proper only “in situations where the nature of the activity or substance is so inherently dangerous or complex, as such, that the hazard persists despite the exercise of ordinary care.” (Benwell v. Dean (1964) 227 Cal.App.2d 226, 233 [38 Cal.Rptr. 542]; see also Menchaca v. Helms Bakeries, Inc. (1968) 68 Cal.2d 535, 544 [67 Cal.Rptr. 775, 439 P.2d 903].)

This instruction should not be given at the same time as an instruction pertaining to standard of care for employees who have to work in dangerous situations. In appropriate cases, juries may be instructed that a person of ordinary prudence is required to exercise extreme caution when engaged in a dangerous activity. (Borenkraut v. Whitten (1961) 56 Cal.2d 538, 544–546 [15 Cal.Rptr. 635, 364 P.2d 467].) However, this rule does not apply when a person’s lawful employment requires that he or she must work in a dangerous situation. (McDonald v. City of Oakland (1967) 255 Cal.App.2d 816, 827 [63 Cal.Rptr. 593].) This is because “reasonable men who are paid to give at least part of their attention to their job” may not be as able to maintain the same standards for personal safety as nonemployees. (Young v. Aro Corp. (1974) 36 Cal.App.3d 240, 245 [111 Cal.Rptr. 535].) (See CACI No. 415, Employee Required to Work in Dangerous Situations.)

Sources and Authority

  • Even a slight deviation from the standards of care will constitute negligence in cases involving dangerous instrumentalities. (Borenkraut, supra, 56 Cal.2d at p. 545.)
  • Dangerous instrumentalities include fire, firearms, explosive or highly inflammable materials, and corrosive or otherwise dangerous or noxious fluids. (Warner v. Santa Catalina Island Co. (1955) 44 Cal.2d 310, 317 [282 P.2d 12].)
  • In Menchaca, the Court held that “[d]riving a motor vehicle may be sufficiently dangerous to warrant special instructions, but it is not so hazardous that it always requires ‘extreme caution.’ ” (Menchaca, supra, 68 Cal.2d at p. 544.)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 918–922

1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 1, Negligence, §§ 1.02, 1.30 (Matthew Bender)

California Products Liability Actions, Ch. 2, Liability for Defective Products, § 2.14 (Matthew Bender)

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

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