Torts: Negligence: Causation: Proximate Cause

Proximate cause (aka “fairness”). A Π in negligence must show a duty, a breach of the duty, show that the breach was a factual cause of the duty and then show that it’s fair to make Δ responsible. A limitation on liability to only those cases where we think liability is fair.
  • Foreseeability – it’s fair to make people pay for the foreseeable consequences of their carelessness. Conversely, it’s unfair to make people pay for the unforseeability of their consequences.
  • Direct cause question on bar: (Breach>>BAM!)Δ will commit a breach and Π is injured almost immediately thereafter. Traffic accident cases tend to be direct cause cases. Consequences foreseeable, liability fair. Proximate cause is almost never a problem for Π in these cases. The only problem for Π in direct cause cases is if the result is freakish and bizarre.
  • Indirect cause question on bar—more frequently tested: Δ commits breach, and then there are other events that take place, and only after they take place, Π is injured. (Breach>>event>>event>>BAM!). The well-settled quartet—in all 4 of the following scenarios, the consensus is that liability is fair, and Δ pays:
    • Intervening medical negligence: Δ runs red light and hits pedestrian, breaks the man’s leg, he’s a hit and run driver. Man goes to hospital, treated by incompetent dr, who puts cast on wrong leg, leg develops gangrene, and leg has to be amputated? Is the driver responsible for the breaking of the leg? Or the amputated leg? Δ driver is responsible for the amputated leg. When you hurt someone and thrust them into the medical system, in some cases, it’s foreseeable that doctors will make things worse, not better. Δ, driver, is the proximate cause of his leg being amputated. The doctor will also be liable for his own negligence, but this hypo focuses on the driver.
    • Intervening negligent rescue: Δ runs red light, hits pedestrian, we catch him. Pedestrian gets rescued by a Good Samaritan but during the rescue, the rescuer made things worse by hurting his shoulder. Δ driver is the proximate cause of the dislocated shoulder.
    • Intervening protection or reaction forces: Δ runs red light, crowded with pedestrians, his one, breaks leg, other pedestrians freak out, and stampede to get out of the way, and during the stampede, pedestrian gets stomped along. If you behave carelessly, others will react harshly, and make things worse.
    • A subsequent disease or accident: same hypo. Δ goes to hospital, and gets crutches, but falls at home and breaks his harm. Should we hold Δ driver for broken arm, and leg? Yes. If you hurt someone and leave him in a debilitated condition, he is more likely to get hurt.
      • If we get a question that is not under 1 of 4 on bar, look at the breach. What about the breach is negligent? What am I afraid of? Skip over everything that happens in the middle of the story, and look at the final outcome and look at the Π and ask, is this what you were afraid of? If yes, Π will win. If not Π will lose.
      • Bad shrimp does not unforeseeably break arms. Π does not recover.