What is an Intervening Cause?
A defendant can only be liable for a plaintiff’s injury if the defendant was the cause of the injury. In other words, there must be a direct connection between the plaintiff’s harm and the defendant’s actions. An intervening cause is an event that occurs after the defendant’s negligence that contributes to the plaintiff’s harm.
What Happens when a Cause is determined to be an Intervening Cause?
An intervening cause does not break the casual chain if it was foreseeable. This means that the defendant will still be responsible for the plaintiff’s injury unless the defendant has another defense.
What is an Independent or Superseding Cause?
A superseding cause is an unforeseeable intervening cause. A superseding cause disrupts the causal chain because the link between the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injury no longer exists.
What Happens when a Cause is determined to be an Independent or Superseding Cause?
The defendant will not be liable for the plaintiff’s injury when there is a superseding cause because the plaintiff will not be able to establish causation. This means that the plaintiff will be stuck with all of the bills related to the accident.
Texas Cases that involve an Independent or Superseding Cause:
In Seale v. Gulf Colorado & S. F. RY Co., The plaintiff sued the defendant for the wrongful death of her daughter. A train passed through the defendant’s property and caused sparks to land on the defendant’s property. A fire spread from the defendant’s property to the plaintiff’s property. The plaintiff’s fifteen-year-old daughter attempted to put out the fire. The daughter’s clothing caught on fire and she later died as a result. The Court found that it was unforeseeable that someone attempting to put out the fire in a safe way would catch his or her clothes on fire as a result.
In Phan Son Van v. Pena, the Supreme Court of Texas held that the Defendant was not liable to the plaintiff. The Defendant sold alcohol to minors who were members of a gang. Two girls stumbled upon the gang member’s initiation ceremony and were raped and murdered. The Court held that harm was not foreseeable and therefore the storeowner was not liable.