The Reasonable Person Standard
In order to prove any negligence case, it must be shown that the defendant has breached a standard of care as established by a duty of care. In order to determine whether this breach has occurred, courts use a theoretical concept known as the “reasonable person standard”, which basically states that a person’s duty extends insofar as a “reasonable person” would behave in the same or similar situation.
This standard is necessary because of the “foreseeability” requirement for a duty of care to be established; an action must carry with it a foreseeable risk of harm to others for a duty of care to exist. Determining foreseeability involves some attempt at an objective standard, and thus the “reasonable person standard” was created.
The reasonable person standard assumes that a person will evaluate the four following factors before committing an action:
- The foreseeable risk of harm versus the foreseeable benefit of the action
- The extent of the foreseeable risk that may occur.
- The probability that this risk will actually result in harm.
- The feasibility of any other alternatives.
If a person fails to consider one of these factors before he or she takes action, and that action causes harm to another, he or she may be held in breach of duty of care and thus be liable for negligence.