question constituted ordinary care: "What would the reasonable person of ordinary
prudence have done under the same or similar circumstances?" Think, then, about how
a hospital nurse, for example, might be found to have acted negligently. The issue
involves a determination of what the reasonably prudent hospital nurse would, and
should, have done under those circumstances? This may involve a failure in
assessment; that is, did the nurse obtain necessary information from the patient? If so,
did the nurse appreciate its significance? It may also involve a failure to document and
communicate? Think of examples of negligence at the supervisory level: failure to train
subordinates; failure to properly allocate time and other resources; assigning
subordinates to duties they are not equipped to perform and, to make it worse, failing to
supervise them to determine whether or not they are capable of performing them; failure
to assign and maintain priorities; failing to notice their inability to properly act in a
situation; and failure to intervene and protect the patient.
(3) The "reasonable man/person" standard. In assessing and evaluating
the propriety of one's behavior, courts measure it against the standard of the
"reasonable man." This isn't simply a reflection of how the average person behaves,
but is how the typical person ought to behave in circumstances in which there is a
potential or actual risk of harm to others. The reasonable person is not perfect or
infallible; he is allowed errors of judgment or mistakes in perception, and may be
momentarily distracted, but such errors must have been reasonable or excusable under
the circumstances; they must have been consistent with the exercise of ordinary care.
The "reasonable man" or "reasonable person" standard is a mythical ideal person. The
actor is held to the standard of what this person would have done in similar
circumstances. The characteristics of the reasonable person are:
(a) the actual physical attributes of the actor/defendant;
(d) Any special knowledge, skills, training, or experience required for
the activity at issue. In other words, the "reasonable person" standard, as specifically
applied to a physician, is not exactly the same as the "reasonable person" standard
applied to an air traffic controller or airline pilot. While both are professionals and while
we expect them to have some special knowledge, the particular knowledge that we
expect them to have is different between the two. Doctors needn't know how to fly
planes, and we don't expect pilots to know how to do open heart surgery.
Legal elements necessary to establish liability for negligence.
(a) Duty owed by the actor to conform to a standard of care.
(b) Breach of the duty to conform to the standard.