Quinn’s car is damaged in the front quarter panel. For instance, a house fire is a foreseeable consequence of allowing a young child to play with matches. Part II will discuss cases in which courts have considered superseding cause as a defense against liability for failure to diagnose, setting forth the courts’ justifications for either permitting or rejecting the defense. The second pedestrian was also likely negligent for crowding the plaintiff into the hole. The next natural question is, what is a superseding cause? Star Athletica, L.L.C. intervening cause Primary tabs. Quinn just has time to realize his arm hurts before a tow truck, happening on the scene, rams into Quinn’s car, pushing it into a ditch. Understanding Independent Intervening Causes. In some states, the information on this website may be considered a lawyer referral service. Quinn is in an automobile accident, which was caused by Brenda’s running a stop sign. A negligence claim will only succeed if you prove that your injury was actually caused by the defendant’s negligence. Review the example with Henry and Mary in Section 4 “Example of Legal Causation”. — Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Amy Hackney Blackwell. In 2007, a power outage occurred in a Maryland neighborhood, leaving residents in the dark. Both the smoke alarm manufacturer and the building contractor filed motions to dismiss, claiming that there were many events that occurred between their supposed negligence and the incident that caused the children’s deaths and injuries. The term superseding cause refers to some event that occurs after the initial act that caused an accident, or some other injury. An intervening act, which is a normal response created by negligence, is not a superseding, intervening cause so as to relieve the original wrongdoer of liability, provided the intervening act could have reasonably been foreseen and the conduct was a substantial factor in … Law students have, for eons, felt the pain of “superseding” versus “intervening”. Superseding cause might be thought of as being a step above intervening cause. Please reference the Terms of Use and the Supplemental Terms for specific information related to your state. An event that occurs after a party's improper or dangerous action and before the damage that could otherwise have been caused by the dangerous act, thereby breaking the chain of causation between the original act and the harm to the injured person. 3d 664] exposed him to the peril of Shelton's action, and thus, plaintiff contends, defendant's negligence was also a "cause" of the injury. An intervening cause is a separate action that breaks the direct connection between the actions of the defendant and a loss or injury to another person. 1485-1405       Latin    supersedēre  (to sit above or upon). In this situation, a horse kept in a damaged corral is quite likely to escape, or to be injured. For example, an adult leaves a loaded gun on a table, where there are children playing nearby. An intervening cause, such as the failure of a home builder to include sufficient exits from a home, may rise to the level of a superseding cause if it is so extraordinary or unusual that its interference, or consequences thereof, could not have been foreseen or anticipated. A superseding cause is an unforeseeable intervening cause. The Essential Law Dictionary. One of the children picks … In other words, a superseding cause is an intervening act that is legally sufficient to transfer blame for the harm in question from the defendant to a third party, or to a natural event. Meanwhile, the driver of a nearby car puts her vehicle in reverse and runs over the person who just got off the bus. She claimed that his own actions amounted to contributory negligence, and should be considered a superseding cause, relieving her of liability for the man’s death. Children in one rental home, who slept in their basement bedrooms, had lit a candle before going to sleep. An intervening cause is any event in an accident that occurred after the actions of the defendant (i.e. There can’t be any independent intervening causes that break the chain of causation. An intervening cause is any event that occurs after the defendant’s actions and caused harm to the plaintiff. The high winds and abandoned refrigerator in this example are a superseding cause – something that simply could not have been foreseen, and which occurred after Manny put the horse into a damaged pen. Usually intervening causes are actions by a third party or natural occurrence that alter the circumstances of accident. An intervening cause can be the action of another person (who is generally called a "third party"), and it can also be an act of nature, such as a branch falling from a tree or a weather-related event. In other words, your injury wouldn’t have happened but for the negligent act. A superseding cause sufficient to become the proximate cause of the final result and relieve defendant of liability for his original negligence, arises only when an intervening force was unforeseeable and may be described, with the benefit of hindsight, as extraordinary. As an example of a superseding cause, consider this alternative sequence of events: Manny puts Ron’s horse into his damaged corral, then retires for the evening. A superseding cause disrupts the causal chain because the link between the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injury no longer exists. Let’s say a person is getting off a bus in a parking lot. n. An intervening cause that substantially affects the ultimate outcome of the series of events and breaks the chain of causation between the direct cause and the effect. In order to determine whether someone’s actions were the proximate cause of another’s damages, the courts apply what is know as the “but for” test. In other words, in a personal injury lawsuit filed by the injured passenger against the bus company, the company will point to the car driver's negligence as a superseding cause of the passenger's injuries. cause, superseding. Learn why they are important and how to use them on an exam. In this example, the superseding cause was the tow truck running into the already damaged vehicle. One person makes a mistake, causing something bad to happen, then other things simply go wrong – sometimes by a different person’s mistake. While the answer to this test establishes proximate cause, it does not necessarily establish who is liable for the plaintiff’s damages, as other factors could have come into play. This need not be the cause closest in time to the incident, nor even the first event to set off a sequence of events leading to the injury. An intervening act will be called a superseding cause (or act) that relieves the original defendant of liability when the intervening act was or should have been reasonably foreseeable to the original defendant. At trial, Brenda claims she cannot be held solely responsible, as the tow truck hitting Quinn’s car caused a great deal of the damages, and his injuries. The landlord had finished the basement, though he did so without obtaining the required permits. In March 2000, Teresa Butts was driving down a dark and rainy night, when she struck a homeless man crossing the street. As a result, intervening cause may be used as a legal defense in a civil lawsuit. Plaintiff's theory, of course, is that defendant's antecedent negligence caused plaintiff to be in the situation which [58 Cal. And as part of establishing the negligence, the injured person must show that the at-fault party's action (or inaction) was a cause (sometimes called a "proximate" cause in legalese) of the resulting injuries. In order for the intervening cause to be deemed superseding and relieve the tortfeasor of liability, both the act/event and the injury must be unforeseeable. In the building of the home, the builder did not finish the basement, and did not include additional exits, as it was never intended to serve as bedrooms. The intervening cause must occur between the defendant’s negligent act and the plaintiff’s injury, and it must have caused injury to the plaintiff. Your use of this website constitutes acceptance of the Terms of Use, Supplemental Terms, Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. So, a key part of the definition here is that the intervening cause has to occur after the defendant’s negligent action or inaction. Other jurisdictions do not use the term superseding cause. Additionally, a superseding act must have occurred after the original actor’s negligent act was committed. To break this down, consider that very few occurrences happen in a vacuum. [16] In that case, one defendant had gone into a ditch, and another defendant pulled the car out, resulting in both vehicles facing … Example of an Intervening Superseding Cause. This alone is not enough to absolve the defendant of all liability, but it may do so under certain circumstances. What Happens when a Cause is determined to be an Independent or Superseding Cause? It is different, however, in that the subsequent event is something that could not be foreseen as a consequence. An intervening cause will generally absolve the tortfeasor of liability for the victim's injury only if the event is deemed a superseding cause. For example, assume that contractor A was responsible for fencing or marking a hole in the ground and negligently fails to … In these jurisdictions intervening cause describes any cause that comes between a defendant's conduct and the resulting injury, and an intervening cause that relieves a defendant of liability is called a superseding cause. The man died, and Butts, whose blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit even two hours after the accident, found herself convicted of negligent homicide. Butts claimed that the streetlight wasn’t working where the accident occurred, and that the man shouldn’t have been crossing the street wearing dark clothing, and not at a crosswalk. If, after the defendant acts negligently toward the plaintiff, a new cause combines with the defendant’s negligence to contribute to or worsen the plaintiff’s injury, that new cause is sometimes called an "intervening cause." The family filed a civil lawsuit, naming a host of defendants, including the landlord, the manufacturer of the smoke alarms, the home builder, the electrician, and the city inspector. The horse is severely injured. But in this situation, the actions of the car driver may be considered a superseding cause of the passenger's injuries, whether or not the bus company could also be considered negligent. v. Varsity Brands, Inc. An unforeseeable event that interrupts the chain of causation, becoming the actual cause of the accident. Let’s say that a homeowner digs a hole into a sidewalk and negligently leaves it open without any warning to pedestrians. Manny agrees to keep Ron’s horse in his corral for a week while Ron moves. In this case, Manny cannot escape liability, even though there was an intervening cause. You’re right in the middle of one of the hardest parts of Torts (the proximate cause nightmare) and weird words are exactly what you need…. In order for the intervening cause to be deemed superseding and relieve the tortfeasor of liability, both the act/event and the injury must be unforeseeable. A defendant's superseding intervening cause argument was characterized by that court as "nothing more than an improper attempt to inject comparative negligence principles into this strict product liability action." Proximate cause produces a consequences that is foreseeable, or even expected. The appellate court found that a proximate cause relies on whether the original actor should have been able to foresee the danger or harm. the person being sued) and contributed to the injury of the plaintiff. However, the outcome of Manny’s actions in putting the horse in the damaged pen could reasonably lead to the injuries. In some jurisdictions, an intervening cause that removes liability is called a superseding cause. In contrast to an intervening cause, which does not relieve the original defendant of liability, a superseding cause usually does relieve the original defendant of liability. An intervening cause occurs when there is some interruption between the defendant’s conduct and the ultimate harm or result. If the intervening cause is foreseeable, however, the defendant will still be liable. Like an intervening cause, a superseding cause occurs between the defendant’s action and the plaintiff’s injury, and it is also responsible for the injury. However, Wes is probably the intervening superseding cause of Mary’s death because he interrupted the chain of events started by Henry. Ultimately the court ruled that reasonable minds could very surely come to different conclusions about that issue, and therefore it is a question of fact that should be determined by a jury. The answer is probably no because the intervening action was (or should have been) reasonably foreseeable to the homeowner. If you leave an open hole in a sidewalk, it's reasonable to foresee someone falling into it, especially if the sidewalk is crowded. Further, the court explained that, in order for an act to be considered a superseding cause, it must be the act of someone or something other than the original actor and the victim. This might be done by proving there was some other event that happened after his act that led to the accident, or to the plaintiff’s damages, at least in substantial part. The attorney listings on this site are paid attorney advertising. In a civil lawsuit in which a defendant has done something negligent that caused the plaintiff’s damages, it is possible for the defendant to avoid liability. What sets an intervening cause apart from a superseding cause (discussed below) is that it is a foreseeable outcome of the person’s actions. In doing this, it must be considered whether the damages or injury would not have happened but for the defendant’s negligent or reckless actions. The appellate court was tasked with determining whether any of the intervening causes rose to the level of superseding cause, thus absolving the defendants of liability, supporting their dismissals from the lawsuit. The original defendant will usually still be considered at least partially liable for the plaintiff’s injury even when an intervening cause is said to exist. It is the court’s job, once someone sues, to determine just who is responsible for the plaintiff’s damages, even if the responsibility must be divided. What sets an intervening cause apart from a superseding cause (discussed below) is that it is a foreseeable outcome of the person’s actions. This has an effect on who should be held liable for the damages caused by the accident. The court of appeals denied the motions to dismiss the home builder and smoke alarm manufacturer. The key difference between an intervening cause and a superseding cause is foreseeability. Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary. She appealed the conviction on a number of grounds, one of which was failure of the judge to instruct the jury properly regarding superseding and intervening cause. Quinn’s car ended up totaled, and he suffered a broken arm, two broken ribs, and a severe neck strain. In some cases, this may remove liability from the defendant, but the event has to meet certain requirements. Remember that proximate cause requires conduct “unbroken by any superseding cause.” A superseding, or intervening, cause only breaks the chain of causation if it was unforeseeable. out of proximate causation: superseding and intervening causation, and the medical malpractice complications rule. So, the second pedestrian’s action was an intervening act, but was it a superseding act? An intervening cause is something that happens in between the defendant’s actions and the accident, and causes the injuries. Professors throw these terms around as if they are household words. Intervening Cause. Change the example so that Henry pulls out a knife and chases Mary out of the garage. While Quinn’s damages and injuries could be foreseen as the result of Brenda running the stop sign, the impact of a tow truck that happened by could not. Some jurisdictions use two terms to define the intervening cause doctrine: intervening cause and superseding cause. The superseding intervening cause defense is one of the few defenses in Minnesota workers’ compensation law that can result in a complete bar to all benefits claimed that are attributable to the superseding event. the intervening cause was not foreseeable and that the results which it caused. In this example, superseding cause may enable Manny to escape liability for the horse’s demise. Sparks from the fire cause Petrol's truck to explode, sending the fire on the way to Rancher's barns and home, which burn down. In these jurisdictions intervening cause describes any cause that comes between a defendant's conduct and the resulting injury, and an intervening cause that relieves a defendant of liability is called a superseding cause. Do Not Sell My Personal Information. An intervening cause may break the connection between the injury and the defendant’s action, and thus destroy a negligence claim. An intervening cause is a separate act of yet another party, which interrupts the direct connection between the defendant’s negligent or reckless act, and the damages or injury suffered by the plaintiff. During the night a storm arises, and hurricane-force winds pick up an empty refrigerator in the neighbor’s yard, and hurls it at the horse, striking him, and forcing him into the damaged section of the fence. A fellow pedestrian negligently fails to leave enough room for the plaintiff to pass on the sidewalk, and the plaintiff falls into the hole. See People v.Acosta for a great example.. For example: Manny agrees to keep Ron’s horse in his corral for a week while Ron moves. For example, imagine that a city fails to fill in a pothole and a car’s tire is damaged after driving over it. For example, if Daniel left a candle burning in his apartment while he was at work, and, subsequently, a burglar broke into his apartment and knocked the candle over, burning down the entire building, Daniel would likely not be liable for injuries sustained because the burglar was an unforeseeable, superseding cause. The information provided on this site is not legal advice, does not constitute a lawyer referral service, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is or will be formed by use of the site. Manny puts the horse in a pen has a section of fence that is damaged, and falling apart. Intervening and superseding causes—which occur when the action of a third party, or even an act of nature, play a role in causing the plaintiff’s injury—disrupt this so-called "causal chain" and can diminish or even wipe out the defendant's liability, which means intervening and superseding causes can reduce or eliminate your ability to get fair compensation ("damages") for your injuries. (Get the basics on negligence in a personal injury case.). This is the biggest difference between an intervening cause and a superseding cause. Superseding. Proximate cause refers to the act that most directly resulted in someone’s damages or injury. A superseding cause is very similar to an intervening cause, in that it refers to a subsequent event that causes, or adds to the severity of, the damages. Quinn files a civil lawsuit against Brenda because she ran the stop sign and hit him. Copyright © 2020 MH Sub I, LLC dba Nolo ® Self-help services may not be permitted in all states. Here is how to conduct an analysis to determine if a defendant is still liable in the presence of one or more intervening … In addition to Kitter, which was used as an example above, another example of superseding intervening cause is Schultz v. Brogen. There are two types of intervening causes: foreseeable and unforeseeable. Intervening and superseding causes—which occur when the action of a third party, or even an act of nature, play a role in causing the plaintiff’s injury—disrupt this so-called "causal chain" and can diminish or even wipe out the defendant's liability, which means intervening and superseding causes can reduce or eliminate your ability to get fair compensation ("damages") for your injuries. In response to these claims, the appellate court ruled that an intervening cause can only be considered a superseding cause if it was “so unforeseeable that the actor’s negligent conduct, though still a substantial causative factor, should not result in the actor’s liability.” The court held that the defendant could only be relieved of liability for the victim’s death if his own actions were the sole cause of his death. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Proximate Cause, Superseding Cause, and Intervening Cause, Superseding Cause Example in Negligent Homicide, Example of Superseding Cause vs. Proximate Cause in House Fire. This Agreement supersedes all prior agreements between you and the Company relating to the subject of your personal services and severance benefits, including the letter agreement dated September 14, 1993, which is hereby terminated.The provisions of this Agreement may only be amended by written instrument signed by you and a member of the Board of Directors. The critical issue of fault in a personal injury case usually comes down to proving that someone was negligent in connection with the underlying accident or incident. plaintiff, thus absolving defendant from liability: ‘(a) the fact that its … Manny might attempt to escape liability – and the hefty price tag for the horse – by claiming that the storm was an intervening cause that resulted in the horse’s injuries. Let’s look at an example of this. Quinn seeks payment for his totaled car, as well as for his medical bills, and pain and suffering, to the tune of more than $10,000. The candle foreseeably started a fire, but when the smoke detectors – which were hard-wired into the home, and had no battery backup – failed to wake the children, and there were no exits from the basement other than the main staircase, two children died, and three others were severely injured in the fire. The bus passenger who got hit sues the bus company for failing to provide a safe place for passengers to disembark. For example, assume that contractor A was responsible for fencing or marking a hole in the ground and negligently fails to do so while contractor B is working in the hole. ... For example, the culpability of the third person committing ... determining whether an intervening force is a superseding cause of harm to the. While the person who committed the act considered to be the proximate cause of a plaintiff’s damages is held liable, he may escape being held liable if he can show that some subsequent event – the intervening cause – was actually the cause of the damages or injury. App. The companies claimed that all of these events amounted to superseding causes that should absolve them of liability. There are three ways to categorize cause in any situation in which someone experiences a loss due to someone else’s actions. In this case, the intervening event was the real reason the injury was suffered. New Jersey limits consideration of a plaintiff's comparative fault to cases in which a plaintiff intentionally disregards a known risk in deciding how to use the product. Not only was the victim directly injured by the defendant’s actions (no third party involved), but his act of walking across the street 90 feet from a crosswalk, and while intoxicated, occurred before, or perhaps concurrently with, the defendant’s negligent act of driving under the influence. During a thunder storm, the horse is spooked, and runs through the damaged section, breaking his leg so severely that he has to be put down. A superseding cause, also known as an “intervening cause,” may be proven to have substantially caused the accident. superseding cause Interpretation Translation An act of a third person or other force which by its intervention prevents the actor from being liable for harm to another which his antecedent negligence is a substantial factor in bringing about. Intervening Cause and Superseding Cause. Under longstanding premises liability standards, the homeowner is almost certainly negligent for leaving an open hole in the sidewalk. Mary escapes Henry and hides in an abandoned shed. Manny puts the horse in a pen has a section of fence that is damaged, and falling apart. Intervening cause — An intervening cause is a potential defense to the tort of negligence, if it is an unforeseeable, and therefore superseding intervening cause, rather than a foreseeable intervening cause.For example, if a defendant had carelessly spilled gasoline … Wikipedia Here’s an example of a situation where the defendant might successfully argue that an intervening cause was the real reason the plaintiff was injured: Mike is mopping the floors at the ABC Grocery Store. To explore this concept, consider the following superseding cause definition. Learn more about proving fault in a personal injury case. A superseding cause is an unforeseeable intervening cause.By contrast, a foreseeable intervening cause typically does not break the chain of causality, meaning that the tortfeasor is still responsible for the victim's injury—unless the event leads to an unforeseeable result. 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