Law of Negligence

This essay investigates the literature available on the law of negligence. According to the literature, negligence is a kind of tort that usually stems from the failure of one party to exercise due care in his or her undertakings, thereby, causing considerable amount of injury to the other party. Although the harm caused in such cases always is not intended, the law strictly punishes the commission of this crime due to the fact that they could easily be prevented, if a little more care was put in place. According to Feinman, the fundamental idea behind negligence is that people should always learn to take care in everything that they do by first considering the magnitude of harm that they could cause to unsuspecting individuals (Feinman, 2010).

The law of negligence perfectly applies to Elvis and Dionne’s claim against Mercury in that their decision to purchase more orders was informed by the false audit that valued the assets of Holly plc at £8 million. However, the case would only gain legal backing, if Elvis and Dionne can be able to prove all the elements of criminal law that are required by law. Ideally, there are five elements that must be perfectly fulfilled before a claimant can qualify for compensation in a typical case of negligence. For a case of negligence to stand the legal test, it must satisfy all of these elements lest it is prematurely dismissed as lacking in content and substance. These include among others breach of duty and duty of care as enshrined in the Common Law (Feinman, 2010).

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The legal claim by Elvis and Dionne against Mercury would require a lot more legal facts in order to sustain a case in the court of law. For instance, Elvis and Dionne would have to provide a reliable proof that their financial losses were a result of Mercury’s acts of negligence. This would particularly be a daunting task considering that their decision to purchase more shares could have been informed by other things apart from the faulty audit carried out by Mercury. Although the notion of causation and the eventual harm sound very simple, it is always a tricky affair to put up a credible proof to such cases. In most cases, it may be necessary to critical analyze the situation to as certain that the harm could not have occurred had the acts of negligence not been there in the first place. Apart from the factual causation of the harm, the claimant must provide a proof to the effect of legal causation of the harm. For instance, the defendant may ably argue that the acts of negligence pointed to by the claimant are too remote, and therefore, not the proximate cause of the harm. This would certainly complicate the matter in the sense that the court of law could easily rule that the acts of negligence were not intentional and thus, cannot draw full punishment as stated in the law. The argument behind the idea of legal causation is that no sane individual would predict adverse effects of their actions so as to avoid them. As such, the law cannot hold them responsible for any harm that results from these kinds of actions. A typical case is that of Palsgraf v. Long Island Rail Road Company, where the judges made a final ruling that the defendant could not be held accountable for harm caused to a distant bystander. The plaintiff had been knocked down by scales that fell off from a distant commotion as she stood waiting on a train platform. In this particular case, the situation worsened for the claimant as their claims could not be directly traced to the defendant’s acts of negligence. This is the situation that is likely to face Elvis and Dionne (Deakin, Angus & Basil, 2003).

The other element that could be quite hard to prove is that of breach of duty. According to literature, this element requires that the claimant establishes before the court of law that the defendant owed it to the claimant to protect his or her interest in the business venture. If this successfully goes through, then the claimant would be compensated by the defendant for a breach of duty. In addition, a defendant who is unable to realize the actual risk of loss that he or she put the defendant,  it would be treated as having breached a duty. However, this must be backed with a proof that the defendant was in a position to predict that the adverse effects would result from his or her acts of negligence. In the case of Elvis and Dionne, it would be quite realistic to assert that Mercury was in a position to predict the harm caused by their faulty audit. Understandably, Mercury was a body that understood all the legal considerations related to business. As such, they would certainly know that the results of their audit would be used by prospective shareholders to determine the number of shares to buy from the company. This technically meant that wrong audit results would misinform the prospective investors. Although it may not be directly related to Elvis and Dionne, they perfectly fall into the category of prospective investors and thus, the law would apply to them (Feinman, 2010).

Moreover, the claimant would have to prove that the defendant neglected his or her duty of care as regards the actual harm caused by the acts of negligence. Ideally, this element may be almost impossible to perfectly satisfy. For instance, the case of Donoghue v. Stevenson of 1992 perfectly illustrated this aspect of the law of negligence. According to this particular case, Donoghue had drunk a lot of ginger beer that had been given to her by a friend, who had in turn bought it from a shop in town. After most of the beer, Donoghue realized that a decomposed slug remained at the bottom of the bottle. At this point, she made up her mind to sue Stevenson for handing her harmful commodity. However, she could not prove a direct relationship of contract due to the fact that Stevenson had single-handedly purchased the drink. This became the basis on which judges made their ruling of the case as the doctrine of privity prevented any possible action against any individual, including the manufacturer of the product. In no uncertain terms, Elvis and Dionne would have to provide a proof with regards to duty of care or prematurely lose the case (Deakin, Angus & Basil, 2003).

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On the other hand, Edward and Kate’s Claim against Elvis has no legal basis that can sustain a case in a court of law. A critical look at the situation suggests that all the parties had their own share of mistakes that led to the causation of the harm. Although Kate may successfully prove a breach of duty because Elvis had undertaken to drive her to the airport to catch a plane, Edward completely lacks a breach of duty in this case. If anything, he significantly contributed to the causation of the accident by not having light in his bicycle, in spite of the fact that it was already dark. Even with this level of breach of duty for Kate, Elvis would still have legal facts to defend herself against the accusations of neglect. For instance, it was Kate who encouraged her to move on even after the lights went off. In fact, the fact that she was shouting out at Elvis was likely to confuse her, considering that complete attention is necessary for one to negotiate through dim light. Thus, Edward’s claim may adversely affect both Elvis and Kate, who were in the car during the accident. Moreover, Edward being a hypertensive patient did a gross mistake cycling in darkness. Ideally, such patients are supposed to avoid, as much as possible, any situation that is likely to cause them a fright. This implies that he behaved quite irresponsibly by taking to the roads in a situation that was bound to affect his medical situation (Feinman, 2010).

The element of factual causation would quite difficult to prove in Edward’s case against Elvis. This is due to the fact that he had serious complications prior to the accident that would have affected him adversely. For instance, Elvis can realistically argue that she did not intend to frighten Edward to the extent of worsening his hypertensive condition. Indeed, Edward may not provide a sufficient proof that his medical condition worsened during his encounters with Elvis, and not prior to that event. If such a proof is not forthcoming, then the case against Elvis would be as good as dismissed, because there would be no other basis to link it to Elvis or prove that she acted with negligence. Actually, the case may work against Edward in as far as factual causation is concerned. According to literature, the defendant can only be held liable, if his or her acts of omission were the actual cause of the eventual harm or damage. Moreover, an argument based on legal causation of the damage would be hard to prove in this case. According to this element, a claimant must prove that the neglect of the defendant was the proximate cause of the harm or damage. This means that a proximity test would have to be carried out to ascertain this fact. However, such claims are always hard to prove to the extent of linking the defendant to the case. For instance, Edwards would have to provide a legal backing to the argument that Elvis was in a position to foresee that something bad was likely to happen, if she continued to drive in darkness. Even if she did, it would certainly not be related to Edward, because no one would expect a hypertensive patient to ride in darkness without his lights on. This would certainly affect Edward’s case to the extent of rendering it null and void (Deakin, Angus & Basil, 2003).

Ivy’s claims against Mercury would find it easy proving a breach of duty with regards to the faulty audit report compiled by Mercury. According to literature, Mercury would expect that the financial reports that they compiled would be used by potential investors to assess the suitability of the business as a potential venture. In fact, Ivy Plc used this data to reach at the decision to purchase a bigger number of shares so as to take over the company. This, to a large extent, provides a strong argument in as far as breach of duty is concerned. However, it will not be that easy considering that Mercury will also have a legal team to defend it against the accusations. For instance, they could put up a strong argument that Ivy Plc had made a prior engagement to purchase shares from the company with a view to taking it over. In fact, if they can obtain written documents to this effect, then they would be in a position to reverse the legal suit against them. The idea of factual causation would also arise in this case again. For instance, Ivy Plc would have to show the court of law that it was the faulty audit report by Mercury that caused them the financial loss. This would bring forward the question of the actual performance of the company after the audit. Indeed, it would make a lot of legal sense for Mercury to argue that Ivy would not have gone to court had the future prospects of the company been looking good even if the audit report remained faulty. As such, the element of factual causation would be a tall order to prove. In addition, Ivy Plc would not have provided an adequate legal backing to their clam of duty of care and the element of legal causation. According to literature, an argument by Mercury that their acts of negligence were not the proximate cause of the financial damage would suffice to poke holes into the case. This is due to the fact that, business environment is composed of several elements that can lead to serious financial damages. Thus, pointing out one single element as the proximate cause would not be realistic. For example, Mercury could find facts from Ivy’s financial records that could have caused the damage. This would certainly complicate the case (Feinman, 2010).

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In conclusion, the determination of a case related to the law of negligence requires certain levels of absoluteness to stand the legal test. For instance, all the five elements must be perfectly satisfied before the courts can order the defendant to compensate the claimant for the damage caused. In addition, the claimant must provide a proof that the actions of the defendant were the proximate cause of the damages. In addition, he or she must completely destroy any evidence that would suggest that they damage would have occurred even if the defendant had not acted the way he or she did. This is the complex nature of legal cases related to the law of negligence. 

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