Brief Fact Summary. Defendants’ overgrown bushes obstructed the sidewalk, forcing Plaintiff to step into the street to walk around them.Â As Plaintiff looked up to check traffic in preparation for stepping into the street, she tripped on crumbling sidewalk prior to the bushes and fell, crushing her hip.Â She sued Defendants for negligence.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Negligence requires both the elements of cause in fact and proximate cause.Â The test for determining whether an action is the cause in fact of an injury is to ask whether the injury would have occurred â€œbut forâ€ the defendant’s act.Â If not, then the defendant’s conduct is a cause in fact of the injury.Â It is not necessary that the defendant’s act be the sole cause of the plaintiff’s injury, only that it be a cause.Â
To determine whether a particular defendant owes a duty of care to a particular plaintiff, the court is to balance the foreseeability and gravity of the potential harm against the feasibility and availability of alternatives that would have prevented the harm.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether bushes obstructing a sidewalk are the cause in fact of a plaintiff’s injury where she tripped on crumbling concrete located on separate property while stepping in to the street to walk around the bushes.
Held. Yes. Negligence requires both causation in fact and proximate cause, distinct elements which must be proven by the preponderance of the evidence.Â A defendant’s conduct is the cause in fact of a plaintiff’s injury if it directly contributed to the injury and the injury would not have happened â€œbut forâ€ the defendant’s act.Â In this case, the court found that Defendant’s obstruction of the sidewalk caused Plaintiff’s injury because â€œbut forâ€ the bushes, Plaintiff would not have had to look up and check for traffic in preparation for stepping into the street to go around it.Â
Discussion. This decision stands for the proposition plaintiffs hoping to recover under a negligence theory must prove the fourth element, factual causation.Â The plaintiff must prove not only that she suffered legally recognized harm, but that the harm was in fact caused by the defendant.