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.
• 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.)
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 918–922
1Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 1, Negligence, §§ 1.02, 1.30 (Matthew Bender)