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Intervening Causes


Generally An intervening cause is an action by a different party or entity that occurs after a defendant’s negligent action and contributes to the plaintiff’s injury. The main issue is whether the intervening cause breaks the chain of causation such that the original defendant is no longer liable.
Foreseeable Intervening Cause Where the acts of the intervening party are foreseeable, or the kind of harm suffered by the plaintiff is foreseeable, the defendant is not relieved of liability. Examples of foreseeable intervening causes:

1. Responses to Danger Responses to a dangerous situation created by the defendant are generally considered foreseeable intervening causes. For example, a defendant who created a dangerous situation would be liable for injuries incurred during:

a. a reasonable escape attempt,
b. rescue effort, or

c. an attempt to provide medical treatment.

Negligence of Intervening Party The negligence of a third party is generally a foreseeable intervening cause. Such is the case when it is the risk of negligence by the third party that makes the original party’s conduct negligent. For example, one who sells liquor to an intoxicated person, knowing that the person will subsequently drive a car, will be liable for the consequences of the intoxicated person’s negligent driving. Note, this usually applies to tavern keepers, and not to social hosts.

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