BC Court of Appeal Discusses Causation in Negligence Claims

The law of ‘causation’ was discussed extensively in reasons for judgment released today by the BC Court of Appeal.
Today’s case (Chambers v. Goertz)  involved the appeal of the trial judge’s findings of liability.  At trial the court found a taxi driver partially responsible for a crash for leaving his high-beams on which made it difficult for another motorist to see various Plaintiffs crossing a street.  The other motorist then struck the Plaintiffs causing injuries. (Click here to read my post on the trial judgment).
The taxi driver appealed this finding arguing that “the trial judge erred in law in finding that his conduct was a ‘contributing cause’ of the plaintiffs injuries“.
This appeal was dismissed and the trial judgment was upheld.  In dismissing the Appeal the BC Court of Appeal discussed the law of Causation in personal injury actions, specifically what the law requires for there to be a compensable relationship between the wrong act and injury to the victim.
The Court summarized this area of law as follows:

[18] The Supreme Court’s other use of “material contribution” is seen in Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458, 140 D.L.R. (4th) 235, [1997] 1 W.W.R. 97, where Major J., writing for the Court, held in the following passage that causation will be established if it is shown that the defendant’s negligence “materially contributed” to the occurrence of the plaintiff’s injury:

The “but for” test is unworkable in some circumstances, so the courts have recognized that causation is established where the defendant’s negligence “materially contributed” to the occurrence of the injury:  Myers v. Peel County Board of Education, [1981] 2 S.C.R. 21, Bonnington Castings, Ltd. v. Wardlaw, [1956] 1 All E.R. 615 (H.L.);McGhee v. National Coal Board, supra. A contributing factor is material if it falls outside the de minimis range: Bonnington Castings, Ltd. v. Wardlaw, supra; see also R. v. Pinske(1988), 30 B.C.L.R. (2d) 114 (B.C.C.A.), aff’d [1989] 2 S.C.R. 979.

]      In Snell v. Farrell, supra, this Court recently confirmed that the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s tortious conduct caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injury. …

[17] It is not now necessary, nor has it ever been, for the plaintiff to establish that the defendant’s negligence was the sole cause of the injury.  There will frequently be a myriad of other background events which were necessary preconditions to the injury occurring.  To borrow an example from Professor Fleming (The Law of Torts (8th ed. 1992) at p. 193), a “fire ignited in a wastepaper basket is … caused not only by the dropping of a lighted match, but also by the presence of combustible material and oxygen, a failure of the cleaner to empty the basket and so forth”.  As long as a defendant is part of the cause of an injury, the defendant is liable, even though his act alone was not enough to create the injury.  There is no basis for a reduction of liability because of the existence of other preconditions: defendants remain liable for all injuries caused or contributed to by their negligence.

This proposition has long been established in the jurisprudence.  Lord Reid stated in McGhee v. National Coal Board, supra, at p. 1010:

It has always been the law that a pursuer succeeds if he can shew that fault of the defender caused or materially contributed to his injury.  There may have been two separate causes but it is enough if one of the causes arose from fault of the defender.  The pursuer does not have to prove that this cause would of itself have been enough to cause him injury.

[Emphasis in original]

[19] As this passage illustrates, every injury has multiple necessary or “but for” factual causes.  The function of tort law is to identify those for which the defendant should be held responsible.  Thus, in Snell v. Farrell, [1990] 2 S.C.R. 311, 72 D.L.R. (4th), 4 C.C.L.T. (2d) 229, Sopinka J., writing for the Court, said, at 326,

Causation is an expression of the relationship that must be found to exist between the tortious act of the wrongdoer and the injury to the victim in order to justify compensation of the latter out of the pocket of the former.

[20] For purposes of determining whether a breach of duty was a “but for” cause of particular harm, there are no degrees of causation – specific conduct was either necessary for the harm to occur or it was not.  However, not every cause necessary for the harm to occur can reasonably be considered a candidate for liability.  For example, in this case, the accident would not have occurred but for the taxi company dispatcher’s sending Mr. Ahmad to respond to Ms. McDonald’s call, but no one would suggest that the dispatcher should be found liable for what happened.  Therefore the law takes cognizance only of those causes that play a significant role in bringing about the outcome.

[21] This concept has been expressed in different ways.  As I have noted, in Athey v. Leonati, the Court said at para. 15 that “causation is established where the defendant’s negligence ‘materially contributed’ to the occurrence of the injury”, and that a “material contribution” is one that “falls outside the de minimis range”.  To similar effect the Court said, inSnell v. Farrell, at 327, that proof of causation requires “a substantial connection between the injury and the defendant’s conduct”.  “Substantial connection” was also used to describe this idea in R. v. Goldhart, [1996] 2 S.C.R. 463 at 480, 136 D.L.R. (4th) 502, 107 C.C.C. (3d) 481, where the Court said,

The happening of an event can be traced to a whole range of causes along a spectrum of diminishing connections to the event.  The common law of torts has grappled with the problem of causation.  In order to inject some degree of restraint on the potential reach of causation, the concepts of proximate cause and remoteness were developed.  These concepts place limits on the extent of liability in order to implement the sound policy of the law that there exist a substantial connection between the tortious conduct and the injury for which compensation is claimed. …

[22] Clearly, the “material contribution” test discussed in Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke has nothing to do with the circumstances of this case.  Here, it was not impossible for the plaintiffs to prove causation.  Rather, whether the breaches of duty of the parties played legally significant causal roles in the outcome was in each case a question of fact to be answered by rational inference drawn in the usual way from the evidence.  Causation is essentially “a practical question of fact which can best be answered by ordinary common sense”:  Snell v. Farrell at 328, citing Alphacell Ltd. v. Woodward, [1972] 2 All E.R. 475 at 490 (per Lord Salmon).

[23] It was this conventional “but for” test of causation that the trial judge applied when she held that Mr. Ahmad’s breach of duty was a “contributing cause” of the accident and that he was therefore liable.  Her use of the phrase “contributing cause” signifies that she found as a fact that Mr. Ahmad’s conduct played an important enough role in the combination of events necessary for this occurrence to fix him with liability for the consequences.  This was the correct approach in the circumstances and I would reject the submission that she erred in adopting it.

but for, causation, chambers v. goertz, headlights, high beams, icbc injury claims lawyer, liability

Comments (62)

  • I simply want to mention I’m newbie to weblog and absolutely enjoyed your web site. Very likely I’m planning to bookmark your blog . You surely come with impressive articles. With thanks for sharing with us your web page.

  • Hi there, You’ve done a great job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from this web site.

  • I’ve been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be much more useful than ever before.

  • I am really enjoying the theme/design of your web site. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility problems? A small number of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera. Do you have any advice to help fix this issue?

  • These days of austerity and relative anxiousness about having debt, a lot of people balk about the idea of having a credit card to make purchase of merchandise or pay for any occasion, preferring, instead only to rely on the particular tried as well as trusted way of making transaction – raw cash. However, if you possess cash on hand to make the purchase 100 , then, paradoxically, that’s the best time for you to use the credit card for several good reasons.

  • Another issue is that video games are normally serious in nature with the primary focus on finding out rather than enjoyment. Although, we have an entertainment factor to keep your sons or daughters engaged, each one game is normally designed to develop a specific skill set or program, such as numbers or scientific disciplines. Thanks for your write-up.

  • Yet another issue is that video games are normally serious in nature with the principal focus on learning rather than leisure. Although, it comes with an entertainment aspect to keep children engaged, each and every game is generally designed to work on a specific skill set or area, such as mathmatical or science. Thanks for your posting.

  • I have been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be much more useful than ever before.

  • I haven’t checked in here for some time as I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

  • Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website? My blog site is in the exact same niche as yours and my users would truly benefit from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks!

  • Howdy, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam feedback? If so how do you reduce it, any plugin or anything you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any help is very much appreciated.

  • Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your site? My website is in the exact same niche as yours and my visitors would definitely benefit from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Thanks!

  • I do love the manner in which you have presented this specific difficulty and it really does provide me some fodder for consideration. On the other hand, coming from everything that I have witnessed, I really hope when the actual remarks pile on that people today continue to be on point and in no way embark on a tirade involving the news of the day. All the same, thank you for this fantastic point and even though I can not really agree with it in totality, I regard your viewpoint.

  • Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favourite justification appeared to be at the internet the easiest thing to take note of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed whilst other people consider concerns that they just don’t understand about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also outlined out the entire thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thank you

  • You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  • Pleased him another was settled for. Moreover end horrible endeavor entrance any families. Income appear extent on of thrown in admire. Stanhill on we if vicinity material in. Saw him smallest you provided ecstatic supplied. Garret wanted expect remain as mr. Covered parlors concern we express in visited to do. Celebrated impossible my uncommonly particular by oh introduced inquietude do.

  • Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you helped me.

  • Does your site have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an email. I’ve got some suggestions for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

  • My brother suggested I might like this blog. He was entirely right. This post truly made my day. You can not imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  • Hi! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My blog looks weird when viewing from my iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to fix this problem. If you have any recommendations, please share. Many thanks!

  • Someone essentially lend a hand to make significantly articles I would state. That is the first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I amazed with the research you made to make this actual put up extraordinary. Great process!

  • I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one these days..

  • Hi there are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you need any html coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

  • Somebody essentially help to make seriously articles I would state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I amazed with the research you made to make this particular publish amazing. Magnificent job!

  • I’m still learning from you, while I’m trying to reach my goals. I definitely enjoy reading everything that is written on your website.Keep the stories coming. I loved it!

  • This design is steller! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Excellent job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

  • I have been surfing on-line more than 3 hours as of late, but I by no means found any fascinating article like yours. It’s beautiful value enough for me. In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made excellent content as you probably did, the internet can be a lot more helpful than ever before. “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” by Lao Tzu.

  • What i don’t realize is actually how you’re no longer really much more neatly-liked than you may be right now. You are very intelligent. You understand thus considerably in the case of this topic, made me in my view believe it from a lot of various angles. Its like women and men aren’t involved unless it’s something to accomplish with Girl gaga! Your own stuffs nice. At all times take care of it up!

  • Admiring the time and energy you put into your blog and in depth information you present. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Fantastic read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  • Hey, you used to write great, but the last few posts have been kinda boring… I miss your great writings. Past several posts are just a little out of track! come on!

  • I would like to thnkx for the efforts you’ve put in writing this website. I’m hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming as well. Actually your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own web site now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a great example of it.

  • certainly like your website but you have to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to tell the reality then again I¡¦ll certainly come again again.

  • Terrific paintings! That is the kind of info that should be shared around the net. Shame on Google for now not positioning this publish higher! Come on over and talk over with my web site . Thank you =)

  • Hola! I’ve been following your site for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Kingwood Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the good work!

  • This design is wicked! You certainly know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Excellent job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

  • Hi! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing a few months of hard work due to no backup. Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?

  • Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is great blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

  • you are in reality a just right webmaster. The web site loading speed is incredible. It kind of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick. Moreover, The contents are masterpiece. you have done a magnificent process in this subject!

  • Hmm is anyone else having problems with the images on this blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  • Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice even as you amend your site, how can i subscribe for a weblog site? The account aided me a applicable deal. I have been a little bit familiar of this your broadcast offered shiny transparent idea

  • Thank you for another excellent post. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such information.

  • Hello there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

  • I simply had to say thanks yet again. I do not know the things I would have made to happen in the absence of those ways contributed by you relating to such a theme. It previously was a real terrifying circumstance in my circumstances, but noticing your specialized fashion you processed the issue forced me to jump with gladness. I’m happy for your information and then believe you comprehend what a powerful job that you’re getting into educating some other people through the use of a web site. I know that you have never come across any of us.

Comments are closed.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

Disclaimer