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Proximate Cause Cases Summarized By Injury Lawyer

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Summarizes the Proximate Cause Cases

Brien Roche

This page within Virginia Tort Case Law is a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of Proximate Cause.For more information on the topic of proximate cause see the pages on Wikipedia.


Proximate Cause-Damages

[1] Damages
2013 Ford Motor Company v. Boomer, 285 Va. 141, 736 S.E.2d 724.
In this asbestos case, court dealt with issue of proper instruction on proximate cause. Use of the multiple sufficient causes approach is proper whether the concurring causes are all tortious in nature or some are innocent. Trial court erred in failing to sustain objections to “substantial contributing factor” jury instructions. Court should have granted instructions dealing with “sufficient to have caused” standard.

2009 Smith v. Kim, 277 Va. 486, 675 S.E.2d 193.
In this medical malpractice/wrongful death action, plaintiff offered jury instruction stating that defendant is legally responsible for any additional injuries a tort victim suffers during treatment for the original injuries caused by that defendant. This instruction was not a correct statement of the law and therefore was properly rejected.

2009 Howell v. Sobhan, 278 Va. 278, 682 S.E.2d 938.
In this medical malpractice action, plaintiff presented evidence that defendant removed too much of colon essentially precluding plain- tiff from ever returning to normal bowel function. Trial court improperly struck plaintiff’s case on issue of causation.

2008 Fruiterman v. Granata, 276 Va. 629, 668 S.E. 2d 127.

In this wrongful birth action mother alleged that failure to provide testing to show presence of Down’s Syndrome was negligence and that if such test had been given results would have been positive and mother would have had opportunity to abort pregnancy. The evidence, however, from plaintiff failed to show that the tests results would have established the abnormality. As such, the evidence was lacking as to proximate cause and verdict for plaintiff is therefore reversed.

2007 Sullivan v. Robertson Drug Co., 273 Va. 84, 639 S.E.2d 250.

Physician settled medical malpractice claim and then sought contribution from pharmacist and pharmacist’s employer. The trial court erred in giving jury instructions suggesting that the pharmacist could not be found liable for the entire injury caused by the medications he had dispensed. This permitted the jury to apportion damages based on relative degrees of negligence. If separate and independent acts of negligence of two parties directly cause a single injury, then either or both wrongdoers are responsible for the whole injury. In this case, the cumulative effect of the doses of prescription medication given to the patient caused an indivisible injury. As such, if the pharmacist’s action breached the standard of care, he was liable for the whole injury to the patient.

2004 Filak v. George, 267 Va. 612, 594 S.E.2d 610.

In this action for breach of contract and constructive fraud against insurance agent for failure to procure policy with certain provisions, the court said that claim for constructive fraud is not actionable when such a claim essentially alleges negligent performance of contractual duties. Loss suffered as a result of breach of duty assumed only by agreement, rather than a duty imposed by law, remains the sole province of the law of contracts. This is the so-called economic loss rule.

2003 Atrium Unit Owners Ass’n v. King, 266 Va. 288, 585 S.E.2d 545.

Plaintiff was owner of condominium and alleged negligence on part of Unit Owners Association for improper security as to her unit key that was found missing as of date of burglary of her apartment. Evidence established that key could not be found at front desk where it should have been. There were no signs of forced entry although there was evidence that use of key was only one of several ways in which burglar could have gained access. As a matter of law, this was insufficient evidence to establish the proximate cause. Proof of possibility of causal connection is not sufficient. Negligence must as a natural and continuous sequence produce the burglary. That evidence was not present in this case.

2000 Powell v. Margileth, 259 Va. 244, 524 S.E.2d 434.

In this cancer misdiagnosis case, plaintiff presented evidence that chance of survival upon timely diagnosis for five years would have been 75% but was 15–20% six months later when diagnosis was made. This was sufficient to create jury issue as to the proximate cause.

1999 Nichols v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc., 257 Va. 491, 514 S.E.2d 608.

Plaintiff had been prescribed one medication but pharmacy provided her with different medication. She took wrong medication for 21-day period during which she ingested 183 tablets of wrong medication. Treating physician from Kaiser testified that her glucose level was way too high; medication had induced her high blood sugar as well as other severe side effects set forth in his testimony. In addition, plaintiff testified to dramatic change in her condition after taking wrong medication. Plaintiff did not present expert testimony in strict sense of that term. That is, witness was not formally qualified who responded to hypothetical questions. There was, however, medical opinion testimony and lay testimony all of which presented a jury issue as to the proximate cause.

1996 Hazel & Thomas, P.C. v. Yavari, 251 Va. 162, 465 S.E.2d 812.

Attorneys alleged to be negligent in terms of not properly structuring contract so as to protect client. Issue is whether or not that negligence created client’s eventual liability upon default. No evidence presented that other party to contract would have agreed to terms now deemed necessary or that client would have walked away from deal if advised by attorney that these terms were necessary. As such, there is no evidence of the proximate cause.

1995 Parker v. Elco Elev. Corp., 250 Va. 278, 462 S.E.2d 98.

Lay testimony of causal connection between accident and injury is admissible even when medical testimony fails to establish causation expressly.

1987 Hampton Rd. San. Dist v. McDonnell, 234 Va. 235, 360 S.E.2d 841.

When damages are occasioned by combination of causes originating from different sources, jury must determine from evidence part attributable to defendant and part traceable to other causes. While absolute certainty in proof of damages in such case is not attainable and is not required, burden is on plaintiff to produce evidence to show within reasonable degree of certainty defendant’s share of damage. Plaintiff in this property damage action was able to meet this burden.

1986 Modaber v. Kelley, 232 Va. 60, 348 S.E.2d 233.

Medical malpractice case. Evidence showed that progression of disease could have been prevented. Evidence fully supported finding that defendant’s substandard treatment caused direct injury to plaintiff.

1984 Cooper v. Whiting Oil Co., 226 Va. 491, 311 S.E.2d 757.

There was evidence of negligence on part of defendant in terms of refilling gasoline storage tank that supposedly had leak in it. There was no evidence, however, that such negligence was the proximate cause of damage to plaintiff’s property because jury could not determine what damages resulted from gasoline leaking from tank after defendant refilled it. To establish prima facie case, circumstantial evidence must show more than that accident resulted from one or two causes for one of which defendant is responsible and for other of which he is not responsible. Burden is on plaintiff to produce evidence to show within reasonable degree of certainty share of damages for which defendant is responsible. In this case plaintiff fails to present that evidence.

1983 Town of West Point v. Evans, 224 Va. 625, 299 S.E.2d 349.

Negligence cannot be presumed from mere occurrence of damage; burden on plaintiff to produce evidence of preponderating weight from which trier of fact can find that defendant was guilty of negligence that was the proximate cause of event resulting in damage. In this sewage backup case plaintiff failed to meet burden of proof.

1983 Sachs v. Hoffman, 224 Va. 545, 299 S.E.2d 343.

Claim for loss of rent. Testimony of expert that conduct of defendant was cause of loss of rent was sufficient. Standard of proof when damage is result of multiple causes is reasonable certainty.

1982 Farren v. Gilbert, 224 Va. 407, 297 S.E.2d 668.

Negligence constitutes actionable tort only when it is shown to be the proximate cause of injury. For circumstantial evidence to establish prima facie case of negligence and causation it must show more than that accident resulted from one of two causes. Plaintiff did not meet burden in this case where plaintiff run over by backing truck.

1982 VEPCO v. Savoy Constr. Co., 224 Va. 36, 292 S.E.2d 811.

For negligence to be proximate cause, it is unnecessary that precise occurrence be foreseen but only necessary that reasonably prudent person under similar circumstances ought to have anticipated that injury might probably result from negligent acts.

1982 Island Creek Coal Co. v. Miller, 223 Va. 645, 292 S.E.2d 328.

Credible evidence supported award for knee injury sustained in 1979 industrial accident although there was conflict in expert evidence.

1982 Naccash v. Burger, 223 Va. 406, 290 S.E.2d 825.

Wrongful birth case. Causal connection between breach of duty and claimed injury established.

1982 Todt v. Shaw, 223 Va. 123, 286 S.E.2d 211.

Lay testimony of causal connection between automobile accident and injury is admissible for whatever weight fact finder may choose to give it, even when medical testimony fails to establish the proximate cause expressly.

1982 National Energy Corp. v. O’Quinn, 223 Va. 83, 286 S.E.2d 181.

When damages are occasioned by combination of causes from different sources, jury must determine from evidence part attributable to defendant. Evidence must show to reasonable degree of certainty defendant’s share of damages.

1981 Peterson v. Neme, 222 Va. 477, 281 S.E.2d 869.

Lay testimony of causal connection between an automobile accident and injury is admissible for whatever weight fact finder may choose to give it, even when medical testimony fails to establish causal connection expressly.

1979 Sumner v. Smith, 220 Va. 222, 257 S.E.2d 825.

Direct medical evidence to establish causal connection between accident and injury is not prerequisite to recovery.

1977 Roll “R” Way Rinks v. Smith, 218 Va. 321, 237 S.E.2d 157.

Plaintiff’s doctor never formally stated that permanent injury was proximately caused by accident, but testimony was equivalent of such.

1973 Moore v. A.P. Woodson Co., 213 Va. 464, 193 S.E.2d 800.

Plaintiff’s decedent died of heart attack 22 months after defendant’s truck crashed into living room where decedent had been sitting. No proof of causation.

1965 Tullock v. Hoops, 206 Va. 665, 145 S.E.2d 152.

Plaintiff involved in automobile accident with tractor-trailer that he had purchased on conditional sale. After accident, vehicle was repossessed because plaintiff unable to work. Plaintiff was conducting unprofitable business and it is entirely speculative as to whether he would have been able to retain vehicle; therefore, damages not foreseeable.

1962 Smith v. Pittston Co., 203 Va. 711, 127 S.E.2d 79.

Nuisance action relating to air pollutants. Where damages result from combination of causes, plaintiff must show defendant’s share therein with reasonable degree of certainty.

1960 Diggs v. Lail, 201 Va. 871, 114 S.E.2d 743.

Doctor testified that accident had not caused depression but that plaintiff was thereby precipitated into depression.

1955 Lane v. Hampton, 197 Va. 46, 87 S.E.2d 803.

Plaintiff’s decedent struck stump on sharp curve, and his body was thrown out of vehicle onto road. Defendant’s vehicle struck body and dragged it some distance. Evidence failed to show that death was caused by defendant’s car and not the prior collision of decedent’s car with stump.

1955 VEPCO v. Quann, 197 Va. 9, 87 S.E.2d 624.

Medical testimony plus lay testimony sufficient to establish proximate cause of damages in this workmen’s compensation case.

1954 Gwaltney v. Reed, 196 Va. 505, 84 S.E.2d 501.

Where evidence showed that plaintiff’s condition developed very shortly after accident and condition was diagnosed as ruptured disc, this is sufficient to create jury question as to whether condition was caused by accident.

1952 Northern Va. Power Co. v. Bailey, 194 Va. 464, 73 S.E.2d 425.

Employee in good health carrying ladder that comes in contact with overhead uninsulated electrical wire, dies within minutes. Jury allowed to infer that death caused by electrocution.

1950 Seaboard Air Line R.R. v. Crowder, 191 Va. 635, 62 S.E.2d 227.

Railroad crossing accident. In action to recover damages for alleged negligence where it appears that injury or death has resulted from one of two causes, for one of which defendant is liable, but not for other, plaintiff has failed to establish his case.

1949 Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. v. McCullers, 189 Va. 89, 52 S.E.2d 257.

Doctor unable to state whether plaintiff’s condition after certain time due to accident. However, lay witnesses were allowed to testify as to her condition after this point in time. Several cases cited.

1948 Cape Charles Flying Serv. v. Nottingham, 187 Va. 444, 47 S.E.2d 540.

Plaintiff cannot recover where evidence shows that it is just as likely that injuries were due to cause for which defendants not responsible as it is that injuries were due to cause for which defendant is responsible.

1946 Panther Coal v. Looney, 185 Va. 758, 40 S.E.2d 298.

If plaintiff’s damages are equally likely to have been caused by either of two causes, then plaintiff may not recover.

1946 Bailey v. Stonega Coke, 185 Va. 653, 40 S.E.2d 254.

Workmen’s compensation case. Plaintiff died of heart ailment. Plaintiff failed to establish causation.

1944 Hubbard v. Mills, 182 Va. 223, 28 S.E.2d 723.

Workmen’s compensation case. Claimant injured knee in automobile accident. No complaint of head injury. Four months later, he died of intracranial injury. No proximate cause.


Proximate Cause-Intervening Cause

2009 Williams v. Joynes, 278 Va. 57, 677 S.E.2d 261.

In this legal malpractice action, defendant attorney contended that plaintiff’s failure to file suit in other jurisdiction where statute of limitations had not expired was superseding event that severed the link of proximate causation. Trial court improperly granted sum- mary judgment on that issue. That issue should have been submitted to the jury for determination.

2008 Williams v. Le, 276 Va. 161, 662 S.E.2d 73.

In this malpractice action trial court improperly granted intervening cause instruction. Intervening cause must so entirely supercede defendant’s negligence that it alone without any contributing negligence by defendant in the slightest degree causes the injury. In this case, defendant doctor allegedly failed to make proper contact with other physician to communicate necessary information relating to patient’s condition. The non-responsiveness of that other physician was not an intervening cause.

1998 Atkinson v. Sheer, 256 Va. 448, 508 S.E.2d 68.

In this medical malpractice action defendant doctor attempted to show breach of standard of care by non-party physician after taking over care of plaintiff from this defendant. That was not relevant. In order to relieve defendant from liability for his negligent act, negligence intervening between defendant’s negligent act and injury must so entirely supersede defendant’s negligence that it alone, without any contributing negligence by defendant in slightest degree, causes injury. That was not case here and therefore it was error to admit that evidence.

1990 R.B. Hazard, Inc. v. Panco, 240 Va. 438, 397 S.E.2d 866.

Plaintiff was injured while opening gate. The gate fell on him. Defendants were contractors who installed gate. On date of accident, gate fell damaging a motor vehicle. Gate was placed upright and left partially open. Two hours later as plaintiff was opening gate it fell again, resulting in his injury. In order to relieve defendant of liability for his negligence, intervening negligence must so entirely supersede defendant’s negligence that it alone, without defendant’s negligence contributing thereto in slightest degree, produces injury. In this case there is evidence that gate’s failure was foreseeable and therefore it was reasonable to expect that when gate fell that it would be put upright subject to falling again. Defendant’s initial negligence commenced this course of action and ultimately resulted in plaintiff’s injuries.

1988 Chereskin v. Turkoglu, 235 Va. 448, 369 S.E.2d 161.

Defendant entitled to intervening cause instruction in this auto accident case. Instruction set forth. Instruction supported by defendant’s evidence.

1988 Philip Morris, Inc. v. Emerson, 235 Va. 380, 368 S.E.2d 268.

Texaco buried supertoxic chemicals and then sold property to Philip Morris. It was foreseeable that people might be injured in negligent attempt to dispose of chemical. There is no merit to Texaco’s argument of there being extraordinary intervening negligence.

1986 Banks v. City of Richmond, 232 Va. 130, 348 S.E.2d 280.

Plaintiff sued city for gas explosion in her apartment. Alleged negligence of city was nothing more than mere circumstance of explosion. Conduct of maintenance man in applying open flame to area where gas had collected was superseding, intervening, and not reasonably foreseeable cause.

1980 Coleman v. Blankenship Oil Corp., 221 Va. 124, 267 S.E.2d 143.

Intervening cause must so entirely supersede defendant’s negligence that it alone produces injury. Defendant spilled oil on highway that was being cleaned up by highway department at time of accident. Issue of intervening cause for jury. Intervening cause is not superseding cause if put into operation by defendant’s wrongful act.

1974 Gulf Reston, Inc. v. Rogers, 215 Va. 155, 207 S.E.2d 841.

No general duty on part of landlord to protect tenant from isolated criminal acts of third persons merely because of relationship.

1974 Cox v. Mabe, 214 Va. 705, 204 S.E.2d 253.

Defendant parked vehicle partially on roadway and claims that negligence of codefendant was intervening cause. To be superseding cause it must so entirely supersede operation of defendant’s negligence that it alone produces injury.

1973 Delawder v. Commonwealth, 214 Va. 55, 196 S.E.2d 913.

Defendant operated vehicle around curve at 80 to 100 mph. Vehicle behind allegedly struck defendant in rear while rounding curve, causing it to go out of control. For defendant’s negligence to be remote cause, other driver’s negligence must have been independent, intervening act alone causing injury. Instead it was concurring cause.

1968 Saunders & Rittenhouse v. Bulluck, 208 Va. 551, 159 S.E.2d 820.

Superseding cause defined.

1967 Dickenson v. Tabb, 208 Va. 184, 156 S.E.2d 795.

Intervening cause is new proximate cause that is sole cause.

1966 Maroulis v. Elliott, 207 Va. 503, 151 S.E.2d 339.

Rear-ender. Intervening cause in order to relieve person charged with negligence in connection with injury must be negligent act or omission that constitutes new effective cause and operates independently of any other act making it and it only proximate cause of injury.

1964 Baxley v. Fischer, 204 Va. 792, 134 S.E.2d 291.

Defendant illegally stopped vehicle on highway. Intervening cause does not exempt defendant from liability if that cause is put into operation by defendant’s wrongful act. For intervening cause to break causal chain it must be superseding and unforeseeable.

1963 Baltimore & O. Ry. v. Patterson, 204 Va. 81, 129 S.E.2d 1.

Fact that person responsible for intervening act is child does not affect case. If act is intervening, independent efficient cause that is neither foreseen nor reasonably foreseeable by defendant, then it will break causal chain. Child pulled switch on railroad tracks.

1953 Huffman v. Sorensen, 194 Va. 932, 76 S.E.2d 183.

No responsibility for wrong attaches when there intervenes independent act of third person that is immediate cause; several cases cited.

1952 Savage Truck Line v. Traylor, 193 Va. 579, 69 S.E.2d 478.

Plaintiff’s truck struck in rear by defendant’s truck. Plaintiff’s truck had stalled on highway, and he failed to place flares on highway as required by statute. Intervening cause will not be deemed to have broken causal connection if intervening cause was foreseen or reasonably might have been foreseen.

1952 Selfe v. Hale, 193 Va. 543, 69 S.E.2d 434.

Intervening cause will not break causal connection if it was reasonably foreseeable.

1951 Atlantic Coast Line R.R. v. Withers, 192 Va. 493, 65 S.E.2d 654.

Where second tortfeasor is or should be aware of potential dangers created by negligence of original tortfeasor, and thereafter by independent act of negligence brings about accident, condition created by first tortfeasor is not proximate cause of accident. His negligence is insulated.

1951 Carter v. Pickering, 191 Va. 801, 62 S.E.2d 856.

Plaintiff’s decedent struck and killed by speeding car while directing traffic around stalled truck. Stalled truck had no flares as required by statute. Question of negligence on part of defendant operating stalled truck was properly submitted to jury.

1949 Crist v. Fitzgerald, 189 Va. 109, 52 S.E.2d 145.

Intervening cause does not operate to exempt defendant from fault if that cause is put into operation by defendant’s wrongful act or omission. Intervening cause will not be deemed to have broken causal connection if intervening cause was foreseen or reasonably might have been foreseen by wrongdoer.

1949 Scott v. Simms, 188 Va. 808, 51 S.E.2d 250.

Intervening cause will not break causal connection if it was foreseen or reasonably might have been foreseen by wrongdoer. Superseding cause is one that in and of itself produces injury.

1948 Edgerton v. Norfolk S. Bus Corp., 187 Va. 642, 47 S.E.2d 409.

Where second tortfeasor becomes aware, or should be aware, of existence of potential danger created by negligence of original tortfeasor, and thereafter by independent act of negligence brings about accident, condition created by original tortfeasor is not proximate cause.

1947 Jefferson Hosp. v. Van Lear, 186 Va. 74, 41 S.E.2d 441.

Intervening cause does not exempt defendant from liability if cause is put into operation by defendant’s wrongful act of omission.


Proximate Cause-Miscellaneous

2014 Harman v. Honeywell International, Inc., 288 Va. 84, 758 S.E.2d 515.

In airport crash litigation, plaintiff proposed as part of jury instruc- tion language stating, “there may be more than one proximate cause.” Proximate cause need not be established with such certainty so as to exclude every other possible conclusion. Such additional language should not have been included.

2007 Doherty v. Aleck, 273 Va. 421, 641 S.E.2d 93.

There may be more than one proximate cause of an event. In this medical malpractice action the plaintiff’s expert witness conceded that it was possible that plaintiff may have eventually needed an amputation. The testimony, however, was that the negligence of defendant doctor was probable cause of the amputation. That was sufficient to make out a jury issue.

2007 Holmes v. Levine, 273 Va. 150, 639 S.E.2d 235.

Trial court improperly instructed jury on proximate cause by saying that the burden was on plaintiff to prove the defendant was negligent and that such negligence was the proximate cause of death. Plaintiff was entitled to have an instruction using the article “a” as opposed to “the.”

2007 McGuire v. Hodges, 273 Va. 199, 639 S.E.2d 284.

Plaintiffs’ 30-month-old infant drowned in backyard pool of defendants. Evidence was that gate surrounding pool was noncompliant and that it failed to meet the requirements of the National Building Code and the County’s Building Code because the gate was not self-latching, the latch was not at least 48 inches from the ground, and the fence’s top rail was not at least 48 inches high. Jury returned verdict for plaintiff that was upheld. Evidence was that defendant’s negligence probably was a cause of the child’s death. In this instance, it was enough to prove causal negligence if the jury could reasonably infer that the non-self latching gate could be opened enough for the child to slip through the gate even though it may have prevented entry of an adult.

2003 Whitley v. Chamouris, 265 Va. 9, 574 S.E.2d 251.

In this legal malpractice action, trial court properly ruled that expert testimony was not required as to the issue of causation. Client in this case alleged that attorney had improperly agreed to dismissal of some of his claims. In a legal malpractice action such as this one that involves a case within the case, the plaintiff must present sufficient evidence to convince jury that he would have prevailed in the underlying case absent the attorney’s alleged negligence. The expert testimony that the attorney maintains was necessary here would have involved a prediction of what some other fact finder would have concluded or an evaluation of the legal merits of the client’s claim. That testimony is not allowable under Va. Code § 8.01-401.3.

1990 Norfolk Shipbuilding & Drydock v. Scovel, 240 Va. 472, 397 S.E.2d 884.

Plaintiff was on board ship when he felt something brush against his leg and he jumped up, injuring his back. Object that hit his leg turned out to be rolled up candy wrapper that had been thrown by another seaman through hatch above. This did not constitute actionable negligence. Negligence carries with it liability for consequences that in light of circumstances could reasonably have been anticipated by prudent person, but not for casualties which though possible, were wholly improbable. In order for negligence to be actionable defendant need not have anticipated or have foreseen precise injuries sustained, but it is sufficient if ordinarily careful or prudent person under circumstances to have anticipated that an injury might probably result from act. Injury in this case was not foreseeable.

1990 Commercial Distribs. v. Blankenship, 240 Va. 382, 397 S.E.2d 840.

Although issue of proximate cause is generally a matter for determination by jury, jury cannot infer it from vacuum. In this action brought on behalf of decedent who is resident of licensed home for adults who left premises and died by suicide, plaintiff simply failed to meet burden of establishing causal connection between defendant’s alleged negligence and injury of which plaintiff complains.

1989 Koutsounadis v. England, 238 Va. 128, 380 S.E.2d 644.

Proximate causation refers to closeness or nearness in causal connection. If defendant’s active force has come to rest, but in dangerous position, creating new or increasing risk of loss and foreseen danger comes to pass, then injury is proximately caused by defendant’s act. In this case, defendant was involved in accident with third party leaving his vehicle obstructing highway. Plaintiff then strikes defendant’s vehicle. This is all relevant to issue of proximate cause.

1987 Fox v. Deese, 234 Va. 412, 362 S.E.2d 699.

Proximate cause ordinarily jury issue. Plaintiff need not show that act is only cause of his damage.

1986 Banks v. City of Richmond, 232 Va. 130, 348 S.E.2d 280.

Normally questions of proximate cause are for the jury. Where reasonable men could not differ as to inferences to be drawn from acts, the issue can be resolved as a matter of law.

1983 VEPCO v. Winesett, 225 Va. 459, 303 S.E.2d 868.

It is not necessary that precise occurrence be foreseen. Rather plaintiff must only show reasonably prudent person under similar circumstances ought to have anticipated that injury might result from negligent acts.

1982 Southern States Coop. v. Doggett, 223 Va. 650, 292 S.E.2d 331.

Breach of warranty case involving poison in animal feed. Evidence uncontradicted that poison caused plaintiff’s loss. Instruction saying one of several things caused loss was properly refused.

1981 Virginia Heart Inst. v. Northside Elec. Co., 221 Va. 1119, 277 S.E.2d 216.

It is not necessary that circumstances establish negligence as the proximate cause with such certainty as to exclude every other possible conclusion.

1977 Roll “R” Way Rinks v. Smith, 218 Va. 321, 237 S.E.2d 157.

In Virginia, remoteness of defective conditions goes to question of admissibility. This same rule applies to evidence of prior accident to show notice.

1976 Riggle v. Wadell, 216 Va. 577, 221 S.E.2d 142.

Wrecker was pulling disabled vehicle. Defendant stopped and was rear-ended by Asay. Negligence of defendant was remote cause and negligence of Asay was the proximate cause.

1973 Butler v. Washington Refrig. Serv. Co., 213 Va. 461, 193 S.E.2d 781.

Plaintiff injured while sweeping under refrigerator compressor which had protective shield missing. The proximate cause not shown; judgment for defendant affirmed.

1968 Taylor v. Great Atl. & Pac. Tea Co., 209 Va. 64, 161 S.E.2d 692.

Slip and fall in grocery store. Proximate cause usually question of fact for jury.

1966 Wells v. Whitaker, 207 Va. 616, 151 S.E.2d 422.

Explosion allegedly caused by accumulated diesel oil in well and sparks from blow torch. Additional evidence of primacord exploding as well, having been stored by co-defendant. Not shown that primacord blew first. Without such showing, storing of primacord was not negligence which was proximate cause of explosion. Explosion so massive that it damaged plaintiff’s house half-mile away. “But For” rule applied.

1966 Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. v. Yeatts, 207 Va. 534, 151 S.E.2d 400.

Bottle exploded in supermarket injuring plaintiff. Not known if explosion caused by bottle falling off shelf or whether fall was caused by explosion; plaintiff failed to prove injury caused by defendant’s negligence.

1966 Grasty v. Tanner, 206 Va. 723, 146 S.E.2d 252.

Plaintiff has not met his burden where he has simply proven that accident may have resulted from one of two causes for only one of which defendant is responsible.

1964 Wilkins v. Sibley, 205 Va. 171, 135 S.E.2d 765.

Defendant’s mule escaped from pasture and was struck on highway. Plaintiff proved defendant negligent in failing to properly secure gate. Plaintiff failed to show how or by whom gate opened, therefore failed to establish proximate cause.

1964 Speer v. Kellam, 204 Va. 893, 134 S.E.2d 300.

Question of proximate cause is usually question for jury even though there is negligence per se.

1963 Whitley v. Patterson, 204 Va. 36, 129 S.E.2d 19.

Where there is no proof of contributory negligence on part of plaintiff, then instructions should not refer to negligence of defendant as “sole proximate cause” but only to such negligence as “a proximate cause” since use of word sole implies that there may be negligence on part of plaintiff.

1962 Miller Trucking Co. v. Flood, 203 Va. 934, 128 S.E.2d 437.

Failure to refer cause in instruction was error even though other instructions indicated that negligence must be proximate cause of injury.

1959 Goode v. Courtney, 200 Va. 804, 108 S.E.2d 396.

Use of words “proximate” or “proximate cause” is not necessary in pleading that seeks recovery for tortious injury or death. Legal responsibility in that regard may be charged by other language so long as it apprises defendant that he is charged with negligently causing injury.

1959 Williamsburg Shop v. Weeks, 201 Va. 244, 110 S.E.2d 189.

Slip and fall case on stairway. Plaintiff alleged several factors contribute to accident. Defendant was responsible for some of these things and not responsible for others. Plaintiff failed to establish which of any of these caused accident.

1959 Barnes v. Barnes, 199 Va. 903, 103 S.E.2d 199.

Speculation as to proximate cause of accident is not allowed.

1958 Richardson v. Lovvorn, 199 Va. 688, 101 S.E.2d 511.

Defendant was guilty of negligence per se in this automobile accident case. Ordinarily in negligence per se case, proximate cause is for jury.

1955 Edmonds v. Mecklenburg Elec. Coop., 197 Va. 540, 90 S.E.2d 188.

Defendant left unguarded hole on plaintiff’s land. Plaintiff fell into it after dark and lost consciousness; question of causal connection was for jury. Error to set aside verdict for plaintiff.

1955 Von Roy v. Whitescarver, 197 Va. 384, 89 S.E.2d 346.

The proximate cause of injury may in general be stated to be that act or omission that immediately causes or fails to prevent injury; act or omission occurring or concurring with another, where, had it not happened, injury would not have been inflicted, notwithstanding latter.

1955 Jessee v. Slate, 196 Va. 1074, 86 S.E.2d 821.

Accident may be result of more than one proximate cause.

1954 Daniels v. Transfer Co., 196 Va. 537, 84 S.E.2d 528.

Instruction using phrase “any negligence which was sole proximate cause” would have been better worded if “any” deleted.

1954 Chesapeake & O. Ry. v. Seay, 195 Va. 566, 79 S.E.2d 631.

Where evidence shows that any one of several things may have caused injury, for some of which defendant is not responsible, and leaves it uncertain as to what was real cause, then plaintiff has failed to establish his case. Fire allegedly caused by railroad engine; action under Va. Code § 6428.

1953 Huffman v. Sorenson, 194 Va. 932, 76 S.E.2d 183.

The proximate cause of event is that cause which in natural and continuing sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces that event and without which event would not have occurred.

1951 Danville & W. Ry. v. Chattin, 192 Va. 216, 64 S.E.2d 748.

The proximate cause must not be left in realm of speculation or conjecture.

1949 Edwards v. Hobson, 189 Va. 948, 55 S.E.2d 857.

Neither doctrine of res ipsa loquitur nor actual proof of negligence as fact can create right of action unless that negligence, whether presumptively or factually established, constitutes the proximate cause of mishap and injury complained of.

1948 Schools v. Walker, 187 Va. 619, 47 S.E.2d 418.

The proximate cause need not be only cause. It is sufficient if defendant’s act produced or contributed to final result.

1947 Jefferson Hosp. v. Van Lear, 186 Va. 74, 41 S.E.2d 441.

Proximate cause is that cause that in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces injury, and without which, result would not have occurred. Intervening cause does not exempt defendant from liability if that cause is put into operation by defendant’s wrongful act or omission.

1944 Bly v. Southern Ry., 183 Va. 162, 31 S.E.2d 564.

Plaintiff trainman fell off bridge. It is not necessary to establish negligence as proximate cause with such certainty as to exclude every other possible conclusion.

1944 Baecher v. MacFarland, 183 Va. 1, 31 S.E.2d 279.

Where there is violation of statute, then question of whether that violation was proximate cause of accident is usually jury issue.

1944 M. Rosenberg & Sons v. Craft, 182 Va. 512, 29 S.E.2d 375.

Plaintiff claimed in this libel action that he suffered decrease in wages as result of libelous letter to employer. Only proof of such was plaintiff’s own testimony which was not sufficient.


Proximate Cause-Motor Vehicle Cases

2000 Sugarland Run Homeowners Ass’n v. Halfmann, 260 Va. 366, 535 S.E.2d 469.

Automobile accident between eight-year-old on bike and motorist. Eight-year-old was traveling on pathway that intersected with roadway. Pathway was a downhill grade and there were no warning devices for motorists. Supreme court concluded that there was insufficient evidence of proximate cause since there was no evidence that eight-year-old attempted to stop, no evidence that he could not do so because of grade of path. Evidence was that eight-year-old did not alter speed, never stopped, and did not look for oncoming vehicles as he approached intersection. Evidence was that roadway and intersection were clearly visible to eight-year-old. Evidence presented as to sight lines depends on respective speeds of the two vehicles but no evidence was presented to demonstrate speed of either vehicle. As such, evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to establish proximate cause. Although all accidents have some factual cause, often described as the “but for rule,” generally, a person is not liable to another unless but for that person’s negligent act, harm would not have occurred. In this case, plaintiff failed to carry burden to establish that but for the alleged negligence of the owner of the pathway, accident would not have occurred.

1995 Gossett v. Jackson, 249 Va. 549, 457 S.E.2d 97.

Defendant alleged that condition of car was cause of accident rather than operation by defendant. Jury issue presented as to that issue.

1994 Thomas v. Settle, 247 Va. 15, 439 S.E.2d 360.

Wrongful death action. Decedent was sixteen years of age. While driving vehicle it appeared to run out of gas. He was able to start vehicle again and proceeded on to four lane highway to reach gas station. En route vehicle began to stall again and he was rear-ended by defendant’s truck traveling within speed limit. Decedent had no emergency flashers on. Issue of negligence in regards to flashers and in regards to failing to maintain proper fuel level created jury questions as to negligence. Question of proximate cause as to decedent’s negligence and defendant’s negligence were for jury. Even if plaintiff is guilty of negligence per se, proximate cause is usually a question for jury.

1982 Duncan v. Hixon, 223 Va. 373, 288 S.E.2d 494.

Whether negligence of fifteen-year-old, driving with temporary instruction permit and unaccompanied by licensed adult, was proximate cause of accident held question for jury. In majority of accident cases, violation of licensing statute is irrelevant to fault.

1979 Petress v. Seay, 219 Va. 1053, 254 S.E.2d 91.

Instruction told jury that defendant was negligent for exceeding speed limit as he admitted he was traveling at 60 mph at time of accident, and it left question of proximate cause for them to determine.

1978 Carolina Coach Co. v. Starchia, 219 Va. 135, 244 S.E.2d 788.

Bus rear-ended automobile which pulled at low speed into traffic from shoulder. Questions regarding signals and sudden emergency should have been given for jury to properly determine issue of proximate cause since negligence determined by trial court.

1977 Rome v. Kelly Springfield Tire Co., 217 Va. 943, 234 S.E.2d 277.

If fair-minded men could differ as to proximate cause of accident, question for jury.

1976 Norfolk & W. Ry. v. Wright, 217 Va. 515, 229 S.E.2d 890.

Defendant’s locomotive struck vehicle at crossing inside corporate limits. No duty under circumstances to give warning in corporate limits. Plaintiffs decedent showed high alcohol weight content. No showing that train could have been slowed in time to avoid accident. Error to allow case to go to jury as question of causal connection was left in realm of conjecture.

1975 Arnold v. Reynolds, 215 Va. 431, 211 S.E.2d 46.

Impaired condition of host driver (evidence of intoxication) and other evidence is sufficient showing of how and why accident occurred to justify trial court in submitting to jury determination of question of proximate cause.

1973 Moore v. A.P. Woodson Co., 213 Va. 464, 193 S.E.2d 800.

Plaintiff’s decedent died of heart attack 22 months after defendant’s truck crashed into living room where defendant had been sitting. No proof of causation. Not error to strike plaintiff’s evidence.

1968 Virginia Stage Lines v. Brockman Chevrolet, Inc., 209 Va. 188, 163 S.E.2d 148.

Plaintiff struck bus that had stopped on highway to see if another bus had mechanical trouble. Negligence for bus to stop on highway; however, plaintiff failed to establish this negligence as proximate cause. Reversed with final judgment for defendant.

1966 Shelton v. Mullins, 207 Va. 17, 147 S.E.2d 754.

Dart out case where mother had told child not to cross street. Even if mother was negligent this would not exonerate driver of liability so long as driver’s negligence was proximate cause of accident.

1949 Scott v. Simms, 188 Va. 808, 51 S.E.2d 250.

In order for defendant’s negligence to be proximate cause of injury, it is sufficient if ordinary careful and prudent person ought, under circumstances, to have foreseen injury might probably result from negligent act.


Proximate Cause-Substantial Possibility of Survival

1997 Bryan v. Burt, 254 Va. 28, 486 S.E.2d 536.

If defendant physician by action or inaction has destroyed any substantial possibility of patient’s survival, such conduct becomes proximate cause of death. In this misdiagnosis case, plaintiff presented evidence that her chances of survival diminished from 95% on December 13th to 40–50% on December 15th but plaintiff failed to present evidence of any course of treatment which should have been pursued on the 13th that would have increased the chances of survival. As such no causation established.

1995 Lo v. Burke, 249 Va. 311, 455 S.E.2d 9.

Medical malpractice action involving misdiagnosis of cancer. Plaintiff’s doctor testified that if diagnosis had been timely made and cancer removed then patient would have survived. This was sufficient evidence of proximate cause to support verdict.

1994 Griffett v. Ryan, 247 Va. 465, 443 S.E.2d 149.

Plaintiff’s evidence indicated that defendant’s negligence destroyed any substantial possibility of decedent’s survival. This created jury issue as to proximate cause.

1991 Blondel v. Hays, 241 Va. 467, 403 S.E.2d 340.

In medical malpractice-wrongful death cases, defendant physician’s destruction of “any substantial possibility of patient’s survival” is proximate cause of patient’s death. This language, however, is to be decisional standard for determining whether or not case should go to jury and should not be incorporated into jury instructions themselves.

1989 Hadeed v. Medic 24 Ltd., 237 Va. 277, 377 S.E.2d 589.

Plaintiff presented evidence in this medical malpractice case that with surgery plaintiff would have 85–90% chance of living to 70 and with only medical therapy, 50% chance of living to age 60. Proximate cause in this case for jury.

1985 Brown v. Koulizakis, 229 Va. 524, 331 S.E.2d 440.

Medical malpractice case. If doctor has by action or inaction destroyed any substantial possibility of patient’s survival, such conduct becomes the proximate cause of death. Law does not require plaintiff to prove to a certainty that patient would have lived had he received more prompt treatment. Prompt treatment in this case would have substantially increased the patient’s chance of living. This was evidence of proximate cause.

1969 Whitfield v. Whittaker Mem. Hosp., 210 Va. 176, 169 S.E.2d 563.

When doctor’s negligence has ended person’s chance of survival, he will not be allowed to raise conjectures as to possible chances for survival that he has put beyond realization.

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Proximate Cause Cases Summarized By Injury Lawyer

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