Tort Terms

Proximate Cause

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses The Proximate Cause

Brien Roche

The proximate cause of an event is the near cause as opposed to the remote cause of the event. In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must also show that the breach was a proximate cause of the injury of which the plaintiff complains.

Examples of The Proximate Cause

For instance, take a puncture of the arterial wall by a catheter during a procedure. The doctor may argue that even if that was negligence the patient only had a 5% chance of survival. The argument then goes that patient probably was going to die anyway. As such, any negligence committed was not a cause of injury.

This is a frequent defense raised in professional negligence claims. It may have some merit. The doctor may have been negligent, but the patient would have died anyhow. That is, the negligence may not have been a cause of injury.

The question of proximate cause in most tort cases is to be resolved by the jury. The jury is the finder of fact. The jury is called upon to decide whether the negligent conduct was a near cause. If the jury answers that question with a Yes then the plaintiff wins.

Let’s look at another example. Suppose I throw a baseball to my son. He fails to catch the ball. The ball goes through a neighbor’s front window and out a back window. The ball then knocks over the outdoor grill that is behind the house. The grill rolls down the hill in the backyard and kills the neighbor who lives at the bottom of the hill. Am I liable for the neighbor’s death? To put it another way was my act of throwing the ball a proximate cause of the neighbor’s death? Probably not.The reason being is that this is a remote cause of the death as opposed to a near cause.

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For more info on proximate cause and other personal injury concepts see the other pages on this site. Also see the pages on Wikipedia.

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Proximate Cause

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