California Law states that “Everyone is responsible . . . for an injury occasioned by another for his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person . .” Civil Code §1714 (a). Simply put, one is responsible for any injury or damage caused by his negligent conduct. The following is a short explanation of the law of negligence.
Negligence is defined as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm. A person can be negligent by actions or failures to act. In determining if someone is negligent the jury is instructed that “a person is negligent if he or she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation.” CACI 401
(CACI are the approved jury instructions from the Judicial Council of California. Jury instructions are read to the jury by the judge and establish the law the jury must follow in deciding the case. A partner of Cheong, Denove, Rowell & Bennett has been formally recognized as one of the attorneys who assisted the task force in the preparation of these jury instructions.)
In some situations involving dog attacks, the law imposes a higher degree of care than reasonable care.
Proving negligence is the first step to recovery. The injured party must also prove that the negligence was a cause of injury or damage. To prove that negligence was a cause, the law requires proof that the negligent act was a substantial factor in causing the harm. “A substantial factor in causing harm is a factor that a reasonable person would consider to have contributed to the harm. It must be more than a remote or trivial factor. It does not have to be the only cause of the harm.” CACI 430
Once the jury has been persuaded that the dog owner was negligent and that the negligence was a substantial factor in causing the harm, the jury then decides how much money will compensate the plaintiff for the harm. The harm consists of both economic and non-economic damages.
Unfortunately, just because one is legally entitled to recover damages does not always result in a favorable outcome. It is the job of the attorney to present the case in a way to maximize the opportunity for a successful result.
The attorneys at Cheong, Denove, Rowell & Bennett have authored numerous articles and have lectured extensively on the subject of negligence law, damages and trial practice.