b. Intentional tort cases are generally more serious than negligence cases because of the availability of punitive damages. **Keep in mind that intentional tort cases are very unsettling for defendants because juries have the option to award potentially substantial punitive damages on top of ordinary compensatory damages. 3. Duty of Care You owe everyone you meet, and everyone with whom you interact, some level of legal responsibility. The specific duty of care varies in different circumstances. You usually have a higher legal responsibility to a customer than to a casual acquaintance, for example . The standard legal duty is to act as a reasonable person . Special duties sometimes apply, such as when visitors come to your property. A plaintiff can argue that a defendant failed to meet (breached) his duty of care with regular evidence, or by arguing that the defendant was negligent as described in the reading assignment. 4. Proximate Causation and Injury Requirement All business people, at some level, work with cause and effect issues. Brokers look for events that will trigger a movement of share prices, and small business owners analyze the impact that sale prices and advertising have on demand. People have many different definitions for causation. In law, we work with proximate cause. When we hold a defendant legally liable for harm sufered by a plaintif, we are saying that he caused harm in a way that should have been reasonably foreseeable. § Imagine that Peter, who works for Pepsi, puts 200 cans of Pepsi into an empty vending machine on Monday morning. Later that day, Karl Klutz buys a Pepsi from the same machine and takes it out onto a second floor balcony. Karl sees Vince Victim down below, waves to him, and fumbles the Pepsi. The can makes a perfect arc and konks Vince on the head, knocking him unconscious. When he comes to, Vince feels litigious. § Peter is sort of involved in all of this, in the sense that, if he had not restocked the empty machine, this accident might not have happened. But he would not be considered a proximate cause, because a jury would not say, "Ah, you should have known better. You should have foreseen that this kind of thing would happen if you did your job and put cans in the machine." Karl would be a proximate cause, because a jury would say that he should have foreseen the possibility of dropping the can and been more careful to hold onto it. § The last element of a successful negligence case is a demonstration that the plaintif sufered an identifiable injury . You cannot win a negligence case if someone almost hurts you. However, physical injuries are not required. Damage to
property, and sometimes emotional distress, are accepted by courts as the required injury. 5. Defenses in Negligence Cases Even if a plaintiff establishes that a defendant breached his duty of care and proximately caused an injury, a defendant can still sometimes escape liability partially or even entirely .
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