Rowland Duty Factors Tort Law
A tort involves a violation of a legal duty, imposed by statute, contract or otherwise, owed by the defendant to the person injured.
Without such a duty, any injury is "damnum absque injuria"--injury without wrong.
Thus, in order to prove facts sufficient to support a finding of negligence, a plaintiff must show that defendant had a duty to use due care, that he breached that duty, and that the breach was the proximate or legal cause of the resulting injury." (Nally v. Grace Community Church (1988) 47 Cal. 3d 278, 292-293 253 Cal. Rptr. 97, 763 P.2d 948.)
"Duty, being a question of law, is particularly amenable to resolution by summary judgment." (Parsons v. Crown Disposal Co. (1997) 15 Cal. 4th 456, 465 63 Cal. Rptr. 2d 291, 936 P.2d 70(Parsons); see also Ballard v. Uribe (1986) 41 Cal. 3d 564, 572, fn. 6 224 Cal. Rptr. 664, 715 P.2d 624; Nola M. v. University of Southern California (1993) 16 Cal. App. 4th 421, 426 20 Cal. Rptr. 2d 97.)
Since its publication in 1968, the seminal case of Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal. 2d 108 70 Cal. Rptr. 97, 443 P.2d 561, 32 A.L.R.3d 496 (Rowland), has stood as the gold standard against which the imposition of common law tort liability in California is weighed by the courts in this state.
Of that important case, we said recently in Adams v. City of Fremont (1998) 68 Cal. App. 4th 243 80 Cal. Rptr. 2d 196 (Adams):
"Since Rowland was decided, its innumerable judicial descendants have adopted the Rowland court's multi-element duty assessment in determining whether a particular defendant owed a tort duty to a given plaintiff.
These factors include:
(1) the foreseeability of harm to the injured party;
(2) the degree of certainty that the injured party suffered harm;
(3) the closeness of the connection between the defendant's conduct and the injury suffered;
(4) the moral blame attached to the defendant's conduct;
(5) the policy of preventing future harm;
(6) the extent of the burden to the defendant;
(7) the consequences to the community of imposing a duty to exercise care, with resulting potential liability. (Rowland, supra, 69 Cal. 2d at pp. 112-113.)" (Adams, supra, 68 Cal. App. 4th at pp. 267-268.)
The goal of applying the Rowland factors has been described as the ascertainment of whether "the category of negligent conduct at issue is sufficiently likely to result in the kind of harm experienced that liability may appropriately be imposed on the negligent party." (Ballard v. Uribe, supra, 41 Cal. 3d at pp. 572-573, fn. 6.) Recently, in Parsons, supra, 15 Cal. 4th 456, our Supreme Court reaffirmed its dedication to a public-policy-driven analysis for defining common law duty when it commented on Rowland and its multi-elemental analysis in the following manner:
"Duty" is not an immutable fact of nature " 'but only an expression of the sum total of those considerations of policy which lead the law to say that the particular plaintiff is entitled to protection." (Id. at p. 472, italics omitted; see also Bryant v. Glastetter (1995) 32 Cal. App. 4th 770, 778 38 Cal. Rptr. 2d 291; McCollum v. Friendly Hills Travel Center (1985) 172 Cal. App. 3d 83, 90 217 Cal. Rptr. 919.)
"While it is the province of the jury, as trier of fact, to determine whether an unreasonable risk of harm was foreseeable under the particular facts of a given case, the trial court must still decide as a matter of law whether there was a duty in the first place, even if that determination includes a consideration of foreseeability. Citations." (Clarke v. Hoek (1985) 174 Cal. App. 3d 208, 214 219 Cal. Rptr. 845; Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal. 4th 814, 819 59 Cal. Rptr. 2d 756, 927 P.2d 1260.)