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Negligence Arising From “Special Relationships”


Legal liability for negligence requires four elements: (1) a legally recognized duty, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages.

Many duties are imposed or created by law, including duties that arise from the relationship between the relevant parties. Where a legally recognized “special relationship” exists, a pair of duties may also arise by operation of law:

1. A duty owed by one person (or entity) in the relationship to the other(s).

2. A duty owed by one or both people (or entities) in the relationship to people who are not part of this relationship.

In the case of the second duty, the duty may apply to all people who are not part of the relationship or to only certain people, depending upon the facts and circumstances, as well as the nature of the special relationship in question.


The short answer to this question is: many.

California recognizes a wide variety of special relationships that create various duties under the law. Many of these relationships will also support a claim for negligence by an injured person (or entity, in appropriate circumstances), if the duty created by the special relationship is breached and injury results.

Here are just a few examples of special relationships recognized under California law:

– Landlords to tenants (and Innkeepers [hotels] to guests)

– Common carriers (e.g., bus, train, and taxi companies) to passengers

– Caregivers to patients

– Adults to children

– Mortuaries to clients

– Professional service providers (e.g., doctors, lawyers, etc.) to clients

This list does not represent the full list of special relationships in California. Many other such relationships exist, and may lead to liability if the duties arising from those relationships are violated, resulting in injury. Always consult with an attorney before engaging in conduct that may create special relationships or that creates a risk of harm or injury to others.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OR ROSS LAW AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Most legal claims (and defenses) are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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