The tortious wrong at civil law of causing damage unintentionally but carelessly. The tort of negligence was established by one of the most renowned legal cases in common law history, Donoghue v Stevenson (also known as the ‘snail in the bottle’ case). In delivering his judgment, Lord Atkin created the test for negligence:
“You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be – persons 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.”
The test for liability for negligence (based on Lord Atkin’s judgment) is now determined mainly by a test of reasonable foreseeability which depends on three conditions:
- The existence of a duty of care (i.e. a legal obligation to avoid causing harm to another person, which only arises where it is reasonably foreseeable that in a particular situation that other person would be harmed by one’s action without the exercise of reasonable care)
- A breach of the duty of care (i.e. failure to take reasonable measures to avoid the reasonably foreseeable risks)
- The requirement that the damage caused was not too remote (i.e. that the harmful consequences were themselves reasonably foreseeable).