Torts Causation

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Marshall2000
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Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2014 9:35 pm

Torts Causation

Postby Marshall2000 » Sat Nov 29, 2014 9:49 pm

Question about cause in fact from a hypo. Here's a simplified version:
Customer purchases a bunch of groceries, which are bagged by an employee of the grocery store before the customer takes them home. The customer gets home, and it turns out the bag was overpacked--- one of the bag breaks, and a glass jar of pickles falls to the floor and breaks. A housemate of the customer comes downstairs, with headphones on, doesn't see the spilled pickles... and trips on them and falls, with a handful of injuries resulting.


In terms of causation...can anybody elaborate on how to handle this with 3 potential causes? (1) defective design of pickle jar, using glass, (2) defective design of bag...a stretch, but maybe... and (3) negligence in packing so many items in a grocery bag



But-for causation, substantial factor, or summers v tice? I think i'm a little confused in my approach, but I'll explain it after I see some input rather than confuse others before they offer their opinions.

Kimikho
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Joined: Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:01 pm

Re: Torts Causation

Postby Kimikho » Sun Nov 30, 2014 11:51 pm

Marshall2000 wrote:Question about cause in fact from a hypo. Here's a simplified version:
Customer purchases a bunch of groceries, which are bagged by an employee of the grocery store before the customer takes them home. The customer gets home, and it turns out the bag was overpacked--- one of the bag breaks, and a glass jar of pickles falls to the floor and breaks. A housemate of the customer comes downstairs, with headphones on, doesn't see the spilled pickles... and trips on them and falls, with a handful of injuries resulting.


In terms of causation...can anybody elaborate on how to handle this with 3 potential causes? (1) defective design of pickle jar, using glass, (2) defective design of bag...a stretch, but maybe... and (3) negligence in packing so many items in a grocery bag



But-for causation, substantial factor, or summers v tice? I think i'm a little confused in my approach, but I'll explain it after I see some input rather than confuse others before they offer their opinions.


I was taught to do harm within the risk for strict liability. The three tests my class was taught was directness (Polemis), Foreseeability (Wagon Mound I), and harm within the risk (Palsgraf)
But-for causation is a thing, but it's not like, what you can sue on. That's what proximate cause is. Practically anything can be a but-for causation. (But for you going to the grocery store that day...)
Summers v. Tice is only when there is one tort, 2 actors, and each of which, alone, could have caused it, so neither had but-for causation.

Here's the area from my outline:

1.Directness: cuts off liability if superseding cause. Polemis (series of events follows from dropping heavy plank; damages were too remote)
o_____Superseding cause: A superseding cause is not foreseeable or natural from the actions. Needs to be an intervening cause, first, which is a subsequent cause, not a concurrent cause.
o_____If the risk to be guarded against is the very risk that materialized (and involves an intentional tort), then D cannot point to it as a superseding cause.
o_____This includes rescues—“Danger invites rescue.”
2. Foreseeability: cuts off liability if risk was not foreseeable from the action. (Wagon Mount)
3. Harm Within the Risk: This conduct was negligent because of a specific risk. You are only liable for those risks. (Marshall, negligent driver was liable for person being run over by the other driver, since negligent driving creates a foreseeable risk to other drivers)
o_____Liable for harmful consequences from foreseeable risks. This includes unforeseeable harms as long as they are the result of a foreseeable risk.
o_____Ask: why is this dangerous? Did that reason cause the harm?

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MarkfromWI
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Re: Torts Causation

Postby MarkfromWI » Mon Dec 01, 2014 4:28 pm

Marshall2000 wrote:Here's the area from my outline:

1.Directness: cuts off liability if superseding cause. Polemis (series of events follows from dropping heavy plank; damages were too remote)
o_____Superseding cause: A superseding cause is not foreseeable or natural from the actions. Needs to be an intervening cause, first, which is a subsequent cause, not a concurrent cause.
o_____If the risk to be guarded against is the very risk that materialized (and involves an intentional tort), then D cannot point to it as a superseding cause.
o_____This includes rescues—“Danger invites rescue.”
2. Foreseeability: cuts off liability if risk was not foreseeable from the action. (Wagon Mount)
3. Harm Within the Risk: This conduct was negligent because of a specific risk. You are only liable for those risks. (Marshall, negligent driver was liable for person being run over by the other driver, since negligent driving creates a foreseeable risk to other drivers)
o_____Liable for harmful consequences from foreseeable risks. This includes unforeseeable harms as long as they are the result of a foreseeable risk.
o_____Ask: why is this dangerous? Did that reason cause the harm?


As kind of a distillation of the above, the way that I always remembered it was basically whether or not it was a foreseeable type of harm to a foreseeable class of victims.

One example to help illustrate this is a food sickness at a restaurant scenario. Customer 1 eats undercooked food, gets sick and goes to the bathroom and throws up but misses the toilet and pukes on the floor. Customer 2 walks into the bathroom, slips and falls on the puke and breaks their arm. While the restaurant and bad food are the but-for cause of C2's injuries, they aren't the proximate cause because the type of injury (a broken arm) isn't the foreseeable risk of food poisoning, and Customer 2 isn't from the class of foreseeable victims (all persons who ate the undercooked food).

Alter that a little bit and say that Customer 1, instead of puking in the bathroom, was to pass out while driving themselves to the hospital as a result of the food poisoning. Again, the restaurant probably wouldn't be liable for injuries sustained during the car crash because although C1 is in the class of foreseeable victims, the type of harm (injuries sustained in a car crash) isn't reasonably foreseeable as the result of serving undercooked food.

Can't help you at all w/ the strict liability portion though because that was a Torts II topic at my school and I haven't taken that. Hope the rest is helpful though.




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