ANALYSIS: PROXIMATE CAUSE 1. Look for proximate cause under universal rules and exceptions. 2. Look through remaining three rules and exceptions. 3. If no rule applies, then no proximate cause. 4. Always evaluate “Practical Politics.” UNIVERSAL RULES ♦ EGG SHELL SKULL Foreseeable Physical Injury + Unforeseeable Extent of Injury Rule: Defendant may be liable for aggravating a pre-existing vulnerability or illness. Bartolone v. Jeckovich 1984: Plaintiff involved in four car chain collision caused by negligence of Defendant; Plaintiff suffered neck and back pain, but trauma sparked paranoid schizophrenic condition which left him dysfunctional. R: Egg Shell; no defense in argument that condition may have occurred without accident. H: For Plaintiff. ♦ FORESEEABLE CONSEQUENCES Foreseeable Consequence or Foreseeable Intervening Cause FORESEEABLE CONSEQUENCE Rule: Defendant liable for existing foreseeable damage. (Most also allow recovery for “egg shell skull,” even though extent of injury unforeseeable.) Wagon Mound #1: Defendant negligently discharged furnace oil into harbor; sparks from workmen on dock ignited particulate matter floating in oil; dock and two ships burned. H: Liability for foreseeable damage to dock—oil on dock; No liability for unforeseeable damage arising out of same incident—fire to dock and ships. Rule: Manner in which event occurs need not be foreseeable as long as the event itself is anticipated. Wagon Mound #2: New evidence: Ship captain knew of risk in releasing oil; R: A reasonable ship captain should have known that scenario had occurred before and thus taken steps to prevent it. Even though the risk was small, his burden to prevent it was minimal—so his neglect of the risk makes him liable for the now foreseeable consequence of burning dock. FORESEEABLE INTERVENING CAUSE (NOT SUPERSEDING) Rule: Defendant liable for injury resulting from foreseeable intervening cause. 1. RESCUER Rule: Actions/injuries of rescuer are foreseeable intervening cause, when: Defendant negligent to person rescued and such negligence caused peril or appearance of peril rescued; Peril or appearance of peril imminent; Reasonable prudent person would have concluded such peril or appearance of peril existed; and Rescuer acted with reasonable care. McCoy v. American Suzuki 1998: Plaintiff aids in directing traffic after he sees Suzuki roll and calls police. Hit by a car from behind when walking back to scene. Defendant also liable for aggravation of injury caused by negligence of rescuer in attempting to alleviate harm. o Fire Fighters Rule: if it is someone who’s professional job is rescue they do not get to recover for the loss that was suffered 2. SECOND ACCIDENT Rule: Second injury caused by weakened or dangerous condition resulting from first injury is foreseeable intervening cause. 3. ESCAPE Rule: Attempted escape is a foreseeable intervening cause, making Defendant who caused danger liable for resulting injuries. 4. DOCTOR’S NEGLIGENCE Rule: Patient’s response/conduct resulting from negligence of MD instruction is foreseeable intervening cause. MD negligently gives script to patient without warning of drowsiness; patient’s driving while drowsy was foreseeable intervening cause. RKO Radio: Negligent radio instruction—first person to find mobile broadcast wins prize. Rule: negligent driving of teenage listeners in search of mobile was foreseeable intervening cause. EXCEPTIONS TO FORESEEABILITY RULE: ▪ ECONOMIC DAMAGE ALONE Rule: Economic loss not recoverable in tort. Kinsman #2: Claim by owners of wheat stored aboard ship on the river which flooded because the bridge fell for extra expense in transporting wheat and replacing it denied. ▪ CRIMINAL ACT Watson v. Kenticky & Indiana Bridge & R.R. Co.: Train spilled a large amount of gasoline. Third party dropped a match that caused the gas to explode. Court ruled that D was liable if a third party dropped the match or started the fire inadvertently because it was foreseeable that a fire would start. However D was not liable if a third party dropped the match maliciously and intentionally to start the fire. ▪ SERVING ALCOHOL Majority: Social host is only liable for consequences of intoxicated minor guest; commercial dispenser liable for consequences of all intoxicated guests whom they served while drunk. Minority: Social host who knowingly serves liquor to intoxicated guest who she knows will be driving is liable for injury resulting from guest’s operation of vehicle. Host must show reasonable care to prevent scenario. Kelly v. Gwinnell 1984: Social host liable for injuries to Plaintiff resulting from head on collision between one of her intoxicated guest and Plaintiff after an office party. ▪ SUICIDE Majority: Suicide is superseding cause: Person who knowingly committed suicide is culpable wrongdoer Minority: Suicide by “irresistible impulse” is not superseding cause: If person did not knowingly control or commit suicide but succumbed to foreseeable injury, Defendant is liable. Fuller v. Preis 1974: Seven months after traffic collision, decedent developed seizures and unconsciousness due to mental trauma; shot himself in head after a bad spell. ♦ RR LOOP Foreseeable Injury in Unforeseeable Manner or Intervening Cause UNFORSEEABLE MANNER AND FORESEEABLE INJURY RR Loop: Foreseeable potential to cause great harm, but actual harm occurred as a result of unforeseeable consequence of act or manner. UNFORSEEABLE INTERVENING CAUSE AND FORESEEABLE INJURY Rule: Where foreseeable risk of intervening cause occurring is same risk which standard of care would have prevented, Defendant is liable for not taking reasonable steps to abate risk. Rule: You can have liability when there are foreseeable injuries in an unforeseeable manor. Derdarian v. Felix Construction 1980: Plaintiff working to seal gas main in excavation sight injured when driver with epileptic seizure struck him. Rule: foreseeable risk was negligent driver; actual risk was epileptic driver. Defendant negligent in not preventing risk by posting sign men, parking truck by hole as barrier, etc. EXCEPTIONS TO RR LOOP: ▪ UNFORESEEABLE INTENTIONAL OR CRIMINAL INTERVENING CAUSE INTENTIONAL Yun v. Ford Motor 1994: Plaintiff decedent got out of van, crossed two lanes of traffic to get spare tire which fell off back; and was hit and killed. H: Defendant is not liable because decedent’s act was unforeseeable and extraordinary. CRIMINAL Rule: No liability for tortfeasor if intervening act is unforeseeable and actor has greater culpability. But if actor’s culpability is equal to tortfeasor or criminal act is foreseeable, then tortfeasor is liable. Watson v. KY and Ind. Bridge and RR 1910: By Defendant’s negligence, tank car full of gasoline derailed and gas ran everywhere; Plaintiff injured by explosion resulting from match thrown by another actor. Rule: Because injury was forseeable: if match thrown maliciously, then match-thrower is liable; if match thrown negligently, then RR is liable. HYPO: Car with bad trunk; man stops on highway to fix trunk and gets hit. Rule: Not foreseeable that defective trunk lid would cause injury on road; man could have driven to safety. Car with tire falling off; man stops to fix tire and gets hit. Rule: Foreseeable that wheel might have directly led to injury on the road. OTHER RULES ♦ DIRECT CAUSE Rule: Consequences which follow in unbroken sequence without intervening cause from the original negligent act are natural and proximate; irregardless of whether manner or harm was foreseeable. Key: Stage is set; all necessary actors and elements are in place to cause resulting harm before the negligent act occurs. Polemis v. Furness Co. 1921: Ship crew of chartered boat negligently drop plank into ship’s hold causing spark which explodes in contact with fumes from cargo. Rule: So long as damage is traceable to negligent act and not due to independent cause, Defendant is liable. ♦ UNFORESEEABLE DAMAGE BUT FORESEEABLE SORT OF DAMAGE FROM FORESEEABLE FORCES Rule: Defendant liable for unforeseeable damages which are of the same sort that was foreseeably risked, even if they are other than or greater than expected. Kinsman #1: Moored ship on icy river, negligence on part of dock owner, city workers, and ship owner; damage to homes upstream from bridge. Rule: Owner of ship liable to all property owners; foreseeable sort of damage—ship could have come loose from its negligent mooring on icy night and either run aground on property or blocked narrow waterway itself and flooded river. Owner of dock liable to property owners downstream from dock—ships could foreseeably come loose from negligent installation of mooring, but since negligence occurred in summer months, the flooding scenario of icy night was less foreseeable. City workers: liable to all as “experts” who could foresee result of their negligence. PRACTICAL POLITICS Practical politics may lead court to ignore the rules, if justified. Factors: 1. Was Plaintiff performing a valued service? 2. Is there insurance available to Defendant which would cover harm? 3. Is there a way to spread cost? Is cost to consumer too great? 3. Will creating liability open door for unlimited suit? 4. Does court want to protect a valued industry from burden of suit? FOR PLAINTIFF LA Rescuer: Truck left in middle of road without lights; second vehicle crashed into truck; rescuer pulls victims from car and hands pistol in back seat of vehicle and hands it to one of victims; victim shoots rescuer. H: Even though harm to rescuer was not foreseeable, recovery against truck driver on part of rescuer allowed. POLICY: courts like rescuers and wants to encourage them. FOR DEFENDANT NY Fire Rule: Defendant negligently enabled train engine to set fire to wood shed which spread to house. Rule: “One building rule;” no liability for damage to house, because the fire’s spread was unforeseeable—only liable for immediate, expected consequence in first building. POLICY: extending liability beyond first building would create liability against which no one would insure (1866) and damages which no fortune could meet; also protecting valued railroad industry. DES Granddaughter: Liability stretched too far; drug manufacturers not around. ?