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Proximate Causation: Was the Accident Foreseeable?

  • By:David Vitola

Causation in a negligence claim comes in two parts: (1) Actual Causation, where the but-for test is used, and Proximate Causation, where the foreseeable test is used. This foreseeable component is an essential element of causation because it can limit the liability of the defendant even though actual causation is established. See Courtney v. Am. Oil Co., 220 So.2d 675 (Fla. 4th DCA 1968).

Example:

In the 1968 Courtney v. Am. Oil Co. case, a child purchased a small amount of gasoline from a gas station operator for use in a model plane. It was not foreseeable that the child’s friend would ignite the small amount of gasoline and injure both him and the child. When the child sought damages from the gas station operator who sold them the gasoline, the court ruled in favor of the operator. The court ruled in the operator’s favor because the sale of gasoline was not the proximate cause of the child’s injuries was not a foreseeable consequence of the sale.

While determining foreseeability is something that should be left to a skilled attorney, this example illustrates the need for a reasonable causal chain. If a person is texting while driving and crashes into the car in front of them, the crash is a foreseeable result. However, if the person texting while driving crashes into the car in front of them and then that car’s tire flies off the car and breaks the window of a nearby store, that person’s liability for the window would be a foreseeability question for the fact finder.

In short, “a foreseeable consequence is one which a prudent man would anticipate as likely to result from an act.” Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Lippincott, 383 So. 2d 1181 (Fla. 5th DCA 1980). If an injury is not reasonably foreseeable, then there will be no recovery. Id. at 1182. If you have both actual causation and proximate causation, then you will have satisfied the causation element of negligence.

If you or your loved one has been injured in a foreseeable, negligent act, call John today at 352-796-1390.

Posted in: Personal Injury Law

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