In Blyth V. Birmingham Water Works Co. negligence was defined as “the omission to be something which a reasonable man guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not have done.”
In order to succeed in an action based on negligence the plaintiff must establish certain elements. These are the essentials of negligence and are:
• Legal duty of care: the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed him a legal duty of care in the circumstances i.e. the defendant knew or reasonably ought to have known that acting negligently would injure the plaintiff. (Donoghue V. Stevenson).
o The defendants degree of care depends on the transaction. Ordinarily, the degree of care is that of a man of ordinary prudence. In the case of professionals it is that of a reasonably competent professional in the field. However, in certain circumstances the defendant owes the plaintiff no legal duty of care. As was the case in King V. Phillips. These are circumstances in which the defendant could not reasonably have forseen the plaintiff suffering any damage.
• Breach of duty: the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant broke his duty of care i.e.did not act in a manner consistent with a reasonable man. It must be evident that the defendants conduct amounted to a negligent act or omission. The plaintiff must adduce evidence to that effect. However, in certain instances negligence is presumed. These situations are referred to as res ipsa loquitar which literally means it speaks for itself. It means that the occurrence cannot be explained in a manner inconsistent with the defendants negligence. As was the case in Scott V. London and St. Catherines Dock Co. In such a case, it is for the defendant to demonstrate the occurrence without his negligence.
• Loss or damage: the plaintiff must establish that as a result of the defendants breach of duty he suffered loss or damage. These must be anexusbetween the plaintiff‟s loss and the
defendants breach of duty failing which damages are said to be too remote and irrecoverable. The Wagon Mound II the defendant is generally liable for such loss or damage as is reasonably forseable as was the case in Bradford V. Robinson Rentals Ltd.