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2.3 Duty of Care
Individual officers and the organisation as a whole have a legal duty to ensure that information and advice provided to clients is accurate and sound. Either or both may be liable for financial losses suffered by a client who acts on statements negligently made, whether those statements are made verbally or in writing, in person or on the telephone. However, where an officer is acting in the course of his employment, the Commonwealth will be liable for the actions of its employee.
Negligence means the failure to exercise proper care. A duty of care is owed to clients when:
- the officer knows or ought to know that the client will probably rely on the information or advice given;
- it is reasonable in the circumstances for the client to regard DSH as competent to give reliable information and advice; and
- the client will suffer financial loss if she/he acts on unsound or inaccurate advice. The loss suffered must be a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the wrong advice. This implies that officers should be sensitive to the uses to which information is likely to be put.
Clients should be made clearly aware if information or advice is of an interim or conditional nature, or is of doubtful reliability, or if the matter is such that clients should rely on their own enquiries rather than DSH.