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a failure to do something; something left undone; the neglect to perform what the law requires. Omission will not give rise to liability unless there is a duty to act. EXAMPLE: A motorist sees an accident on the highway late at night but fails to call anyone, although he possessed a working cell phone. As a result of that omission, one of the victims of the accident dies. Although common standards may view the motorist as somewhat responsible for the death, the motorist cannot be found liable in a court of law since he has no legal duty to report the accident. If he had been involved in the accident, he would have had a legal duty to summon help and his omission in that instance would be the subject of civil and possibly criminal action.

compare actus reus
Source: Barron's Dictionary of Legal Terms, Steven H. Gifis, 5th Edition; © 2016

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