Rock Hill Injury Cases & Duty of Care in Negligence Claims

Success in Rock Hill injury claims is often predicated on whether plaintiff attorneys are able to effectively establish a duty of care belonging to the person or entity being sued.
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A duty of care is the legal obligation of one party to act in a certain manner toward another. That manner is generally described as one of caution or watchfulness or prudence or attention that a person in reasonable circumstances would.

The standards for those actions vary depending on the kind of duty one is attempting to establish. For example, there are standards of care set forth by corporations and pharmaceutical companies. These entities have a duty to warn if the products they are selling may have dangerous side effects when used or consumed.

Individuals too have duties, which might include a duty to safely operate a vehicle or provide supervision to a child.

Establishing a duty of care is the first step in any South Carolina negligence claim. You establish the duty, then establish that the duty was breached by the opposing party and then establish the injury suffered as a result.

The case of Bell v. Dawson is a good example of how the establishing a duty can be a significant challenge. In some cases, such as this one from Maine, failure to establish this point can tank the entire claim.

According to court records, a 13-year-old boy was seriously injured while skateboarding out of a friend’s driveway. He was struck in the roadway by a moving vehicle. There was no indication that the driver had acted inappropriately. Rather, the boy’s parents filed a lawsuit against the couple whose driveway he had just exited.

The parents alleged that the defendants were negligent in their supervision of the boy and also negligently created a dangerous condition by allowing the bushes on their property to grow out of control, such that neither their son nor the driver saw one another until the boy was in the roadway and it was too late.

The claim regarding the vegetation growth was dismissed by the court on the grounds that it had not played any role whatsoever in the crash, according to police records.

But the duty to adequately supervise was a more complex issue.

The defendants’ home was a place where teens frequently gathered without their parents’ knowledge to hang out, smoke cigarettes and sometimes consume alcohol. The defendants, who did not have a teen of their own, allowed these actions on their property. The evening before the crash, the teen told his parents he was staying at a certain friend’s home. The female defendant called the boy’s mother, acting as the mother of the friend, and cleared the overnight stay with her.

The teen stayed the night there. The defendants admit they were drinking that night, and went to bed as several boys who stayed that night were still awake. The 13-year-old and several of the other boys headed out that night for several hours, returning early in the morning.

Had the accident happened during those hours, this would have been enough to establish duty of care.

However, early that morning, the boy left the house and returned home. He spoke to his parents. He grabbed something to eat. He headed back out. He then returned to the home of the defendants. It was at this time that he exited the driveway on his skateboard and the crash occurred.

There was no dispute that the boy had left the defendants’ home and returned to his own home just prior to the crash. Given that the crash occurred some 30 to 40 minutes after the defendants saw the teen leave the property and there was no indication that the defendants knew he had returned, the district court found that the defendants therefore did not have a duty to supervise the teen at the time of the crash.

The state’s high court affirmed this decision, holding that the custodial relationship that was formed between the teen and the defendants was severed when the teen returned home. At that point, the custodial relationship was reestablished with his parents.

As such, the parents’ negligence claim was not allowed to move forward.

Contact our Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Bell v. Dawson, Dec. 10, 2013, Maine Supreme Judicial Court

More Blog Entries:
Liability and Negligence in North Carolina Exculpatory Agreements, Dec. 14, 2013, Rock Hill Injury Lawyer Blog

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