Who, then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be - persons 1967 1 MLJ 272 at 275 who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question." Thus, the criterion is the foresight of the reasonable man, that is, was injury to the plaintiff the reasonably foreseeable consequence of the defendant's acts or omissions in all the circumstances of the case? If it was not, then the decision will be that no duty of care was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff. This does not mean, of course, that the plaintiff must be a person identifiable by the defendant. What is required is that he should be one of a class within the area of foreseeable injury. As regards what exactly must be foreseen, it is not necessary to show that the particular accident which has happened was foreseeable, any more than it is necessary to show that the particular damage was foreseeable; it is enough if it was reasonable in a general way to foresee the kind of thing that occurred (see Stewart West African Terminals Limited  2 Lloyd's Rep 371 375). No duty to take care can be said to exist where there is only a remote possibility of injury. To use the words of Lord Dunedin in Fardon Harcourt-Rivington. (1932) 146 LT 391 392, "If the possibility of the danger emerging is reasonably apparent, then to take no precautions is negligence; but, if the possibility of danger emerging is only a mere possibility which would never occur to the mind of a reasonable man, then there is no negligence in not having taken extraordinary precautions .... In other words, people must guard against reasonable probabilities, but they are not bound to guard against fantastic possibilities." The test for deciding whether there has been a breach of duty is laid down in the oft-cited dictum of Alderson B., in Blyth Birmingham Waterworks Co (1856) 11 Exch 781 784. "Negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do." Thus, the standard of care required by the law is that of a hypothetically reasonable man and in applying this standard it is necessary to ask what, in the circumstances, the reasonable man would have foreseen. The likelihood of injury or damage being caused is a matter to be taken into account in determining what degree of care, if any, need be taken in any given circumstances when a duty to take care exists. If the chance of injury is small, little or no precautions need be taken against it, but if it is great, precautions should be taken to prevent or avoid it. The graver the consequences of a failure to take due care, the greater the degree of care which must be taken.
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- Fall '15
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