“Negligence” is defined in The Utah Code as “the failure to exercise that degree of care that an ordinarily reasonable and prudent person exercises under like or similar circumstances.” This definition is used to describe negligence in a number of legal contexts, but the standards for reasonability and prudence vary from situation to situation. In traffic code, for instance, speeding, tailgating, and failing to yielding to pedestrians are violations of the “reasonable and prudent” paradigm. Knowingly subjecting a child to abuse or failing to report said abuse is a violation according to judicial code. Utah’s criminal code maintains the distribution of pornographic material, alcoholic beverages, or tobacco products to minors as a negligent act. Ultimately, a negligent act is one that the perpetrator knew or should have known could negatively impact another person.
Although negligence sounds like it could be construed to encompass a myriad of innocuous human errors, proving that it contributed to a serious injury requires a comprehensive understanding of past rulings on the subject.
A woman who stepped on a stray kiwi in a Utah grocery aisle attempted to sue the store for the injuries she sustained as a result of her fall. While she was able to prove that the kiwi was a proximate cause of her injury, the court ruled in favor of the store because the presence of the kiwi in the shopping aisle did not indicate that store management was guilty of negligence. Taking reasonable care to prevent patron injury by patrolling the aisles periodically and displaying produce in a manner that does not invite disaster cannot always keep every piece of fruit in its proper place. The woman’s injury could not necessarily have been prevented by reasonable and prudent care.
Other Important Information
Driving a motor vehicle while using a handheld mobile device is, according to Utah law, negligent enough to qualify as automobile homicide if driver inattention leads him into a fatal accident. At the same time, that someone is at fault in an accident does not prohibit them from making a claim for recovery IF their fault is less than that of those from whom they seek recovery. Furthermore, failure to take safety precautions (specifically, wearing a helmet or seat belt or using a child restraint) does not count against a person seeking recovery. If either an at-fault party or a victim of their actions dies during the course of a claim, that claim may proceed between the claimant/defendant and the estate of the deceased. Voluntary intoxication does not exempt a person from prosecution. “[I]f recklessness or criminal negligence establishes an element of an offense and the actor is unaware of the risk because of voluntary intoxication, his unawareness is immaterial in a prosecution for that offense.” An act does not have to be direct to be negligent: a person who knowingly lends their automobile to a minor is responsible for whatever havoc they wreak in the vehicle in question. Photo courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker.