Chapter 2 Guidance on answering the end-of-chapter problem questions

Duty of care I: foundational principles

This problem is designed to test knowledge of the framework for resolving novel duty issues as they apply in cases of omissions. The first thing to do is to look for a suitable analogous authority, which either holds that a duty of care is owed or is not owed. We do have strong statements about courts being wary of imposing duties of care in cases of omissions (or failures to act). But these do not necessarily govern the strict facts of this case.  If there is no sufficiently analogous authority, then we might say that the question is a novel one that needs to be resolved using the duty of care framework – principally the Caparo three-stage test for duty. It is foreseeable to a reasonable neighbour that harm may befall an infant who is neglected by their parent. Proximity arises between June and Gregory by virtue of their living next door to each other and (perhaps) June’s powers of intervention. Although June has intervened in the past, this was with respect to Amanda – and not necessarily Gregory. In any case, it would be difficult to find an assumption of responsibility for Gregory’s welfare in the acts about which we have been informed. So, the matter will come down to policy and the use of an incrementalist approach. On balance, it is unlikely that the courts will impose a duty on June for reasons set out in cases like Stovin v Wise