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Duty of Care

Duty of care arises where one individual or group undertakes an activity which could reasonably harm another, either physically, mentally, or economically.

It also refers to the obligations placed on people to act towards others in a certain way, in accordance with certain standards.

Two ways in which a duty of care may be established

1. the defendant and claimant are within one of the recognised relationships where a duty of care is established by precedent; or

2. outside these relationships, according to the principles developed by case law.

The principles delineated in Caparo V Dickman specify a tripartite test

1. Was the harm reasonably forseeable?

2. Was there a requisite degree of proximity between the claimant and the defendant?

3. Is it fair, just and reasonable to impose a duty of care; are there precluding public policy concerns?

For medical practitioners, a doctor can refuse to establish a doctor-patient relationship as long as he/she has reasonable grounds for that. Without this doctor-patient relationship, he/she does not owe the duty of care.

Examples are:

1. one road-user to another

2. employer to employee

3. manufacturer to consumer

4. doctor to patient

5. solicitor to client

6. teacher to student

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