What is the Professional Standard of Care: Ordinary Care, Doing your Best, or Perfection?

standard of care

The Standard of Care is the legal yardstick by which our legal system measures the conduct of licensed professionals. If you are careful in rendering your professional services, you are meeting the standard of care. If you are being professionally careless, then you are violating the standard of care. As lawyers, we call that negligence or professional malpractice.

The AIA defines the Standard of Care in its 2017 B101 Standard Form Agreement between Owner and Architect under Art. 2.2 as:

The Architect shall perform its services consistent with the professional skill and care ordinarily provided by architects practicing in the same or similar locality under the same or similar circumstances.

The key word is “ordinarily” qualifying the level of “skill and care” required. Ordinary care is often equated to “reasonable care”. It is a minimal standard of care much like an architect or engineer designing a project to meet a building code. Building codes are minimal standards. We all want to believe that perhaps 98% or 99% licensed professional architects and engineers (as well as doctors and lawyers) are meeting the minimal standard of ordinary care. Consequently, whether you are in the top 1%, top 10% or the 98th percentile of the profession, then you are most likely meeting the “standard of care”.

Our Courts issue standard instructions to juries in professional malpractice cases defining the standard of care. In one example, the District of Columbia Courts instruct civil juries in professional malpractice cases under Standard Instruction 5-2 as follows:

Negligence is the failure to exercise ordinary care. To exercise ordinary care means to use the same caution, attention, or skill that a reasonable person would use under similar circumstances. It is negligent to do something that person using ordinary care would not do. It is also negligent to fail to do something that a person using ordinary care would do.

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