What Is Duty of Care? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of Duty of Care
  • 0:40 Types of Duties of Care
  • 1:12 Examples
  • 2:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Learn what constitutes the duty of care. Review the definition of the duty of care in the law of negligence and examine several examples to gain a deeper understanding.

Definition of Duty of Care

Did you ever see someone do something questionable, then scratch your head and think, 'I would never do something like that?' For instance, maybe you saw someone throw a cigarette butt out of their car window into a dry bed of grass, and shook your head at their careless action? Well, that is similar to the idea behind the duty of care.

The duty of care is a standard in the law of negligence. It is a duty owed to use reasonable care; in other words, one must act as a reasonable person. It is a duty to act the way a responsible person should act in a given set of circumstances, and a deviation from this could result in negligence. This duty of care can be owed by an individual or by a business to another entity.

Types of Duties of Care

There are different types of situations where a duty of care arises. Initially, a manufacturer owes a duty of care to make a product safely for use. In addition, a manufacturer must issue warnings about the product, if necessary. Moreover, land owners owe a duty of care to individuals who visit their property. Land owners must also provide warnings of any dangerous conditions. Next, business owners owe a duty to act in good faith towards the business.


Let's look at an example to gain a better understanding of how the duty of care works in a real-world situation. Imagine that a homeowner digs a ditch in their front yard next to the mailbox. The homeowner does not put up any signs or warnings of the big hole. The next day, the mail carrier comes to deliver the mail and slips into the giant hole, sustaining a broken leg and broken arm. The mail carrier sues the homeowner for negligence. The homeowner owed the mail carrier the duty of reasonable care to warn of the giant ditch. The homeowner's failure to warn the mail carrier of the ditch will likely result in a finding of negligence.

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