Negligence is an unintentional tort, as opposed to purposeful or intentional torts such as Assault or Battery.  Negligence occurs when a person fails to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.  In other words, the person’s conduct fell below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm.  Negligence cases are very fact-specific, but generally a party must prove that the defendant had a legal duty to exercise a certain level of care; the defendant breached that duty by failing to exercise the required level of care; the defendant’s negligent conduct was the cause of the harm; and that harm was suffered in the form of actual damages. It is always best to consult with an attorney immediately after an injury occurs to you or your property, however, in most cases, negligence claims must be commenced within six years. Negligence claim come in many forms.

M.S.A. § 541.05 (2013)

For example, special duties or responsibilities apply to business professionals. Professional Negligence is also often referred to as malpractice.  It is a tort similar to general negligence, but deals with the delivery of substandard care or services by doctors, dentists, accountants, lawyers, veterinarians, or other professionals.  These professionals have a higher level of skill and training than the average person and, as such, are held to a higher standard of care.  Generally Professional Negligence occurs when a professional fails to provide the quality of care or service that should reasonably be expected in the circumstances or in the professional community, with the result that the patient or client is harmed.  The failure of the professional can occur through negligence, ignorance (i.e. when the professional should have known), or intentional wrongdoing.  

Another example of a particular subset of negligence claims is the area of strict liability. Strict liability developed from the premise that one who creates a danger or harm to another by engaging in an abnormally dangerous activity should be held absolutely accountable for any resulting injuries.  The doctrine of strict liability is distinguished from negligence in that liability can result without a finding of fault.  That is why strict liability is sometimes referred to as absolute liability, because someone can be found liable without proof of carelessness or fault. 

In many cases, strict liability arises in cases of dog bites or attacks.  Under Minnesota Statute § 347.22 (2013), for example, a dog owner is liable if the dog, without provocation, attacks or injures a person who is acting peaceably and is in a place where they are lawfully permitted to be.  Minnesota courts have applied the statute in a manner favorable to dog bite victims. It has been interpreted as an absolute, strict liability statute and comparative fault is not permitted as a defense.  See Seim v. Garavalia, 306 N.W.2d 806, 810 (Minn. 1981). 

Strict liability applies to many other areas and there are many additional negligence subsets, including duties for landowners and employers. See the pages dedicated to these particular topics for additional information. The attorneys at WLG are well versed in the nuances between different subsets of negligence claims and can help you determine which type of claim best suites your particular needs.