GADDY WELLS
Texas Lawyer
LEGAL CAUSATION
DISCLAIMER

THE CONTENT OF THIS WEB PAGE IS NOT INTENDED TO BE AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON OR USED AS LEGAL ADVICE OR AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR PERSONAL CONSULTATION WITH A LICENSED ATTORNEY
_____________________________________________________

    A person is not liable for another person's injury or damages unless the person's conduct legally caused the other person's injury or damages.  Even if the person's conduct was wrongful, the conduct may be too remotely connected with another person's injury or damage to constitute legal causation.  A person is not legally responsible for remote results of his wrongful acts. Union Pump Co. v. Allbritton, 898 S.W.2d 773, 775 (Tex.1995)

    In order for a person's wrongful conduct to be considered a legal cause of another person's harm, the person’s wrongful conduct must have been a substantial factor in causing the other persons harm.
A great number of events or conduct may have been a cause of the harm in the “philosophic sense." However, to be a substantial factor in causing harm to incur legal liability, the person's conduct must have had such an effect in producing the other person's harm that reasonable men would regard the conduct as a cause of the harm, in the popular sense of the word "cause." Union Pump Co. v. Allbritton, 898 S.W.2d 773, 775 (Tex.1995). Legal cause is not established if a person's conduct or product does no more than furnish the condition that makes the other person's injury possible. Id.

    In most cases, the applicable standard of legal causation is “proximate cause.”  For violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and selling defective products, the applicable standard of legal causation is “producing cause.”

Proximate Cause

   
"Proximate cause" is a legal term for the type of causation that must be proved before a person can be found to be legally responsible for another person’s injury or damage to the person’s property. This is not a term the average person is familiar with. As a law student, I had difficulty  understanding the concept.  

    “Proximate cause” is usually defined to juries as follows:

    “That cause which, in a natural and continuous sequence, produces an event, and without which cause such event would not have occurred. In order to be a proximate cause, the act or omission complained of must be such that a person using ordinary care would have foreseen that the event, or some similar event, might reasonably result therefrom. There may be more than one proximate cause of an event."  

      Proximate cause consists of two parts, both of which must be proved.  The parts are (1) cause in fact and (2) forseeability. Doe v. Boys Clubs of Greater Dallas, Inc., 907 S.W.2d 472, 477 (Tex. 1995).

       "Cause in fact" is an essential element of every tort recognized in Texas. Crum & Forster, Inc. v. Monsanto Co., 887 S.W.2d 103, 130 (Tex. App.--Texarkana 1994, no writ). Cause in fact means that the act or omission complained of was a substantial factor in bringing about the injury or damages, and without the act or omission, no harm would have occurred to the plaintiff.  Doe v. Boys Clubs of Greater Dallas, Inc., 907 S.W.2d 472, 477 (Tex. 1995).  

       Cause in fact cannot be established by mere conjecture, guess, or speculation. Doe v. Boys Clubs of Greater Dallas, Inc., 907 S.W.2d 472, 477 (Tex. 1995). It cannot be shown if the defendant's negligence did no more than furnish a condition that made the injury possible. Doe v. Boys Clubs of Greater Dallas, Inc., 907 S.W.2d 472, 477 (Tex. 1995).

        The issue of forseeability only arises once it is established that the defendant's conduct was one of the causes in fact of the plaintiff's injury.  Forseeability requires a court to determine a question of legal policy--whether the defendant should be responsible for the plaintiff's injuries. City of Gladewater v. Pike, 727 S.W.2d 514, 518 (Tex. 1987).  
 
     The inclusion of the forseeability element in proximate causation analysis represents judicial recognition that "[a]t some point in the causal chain, the defendant's conduct or product may be too remotely connected with the plaintiff's injury to constitute legal causation." Union Pump Company v. Allbritton, 898 S.W.2d 773, 775 (Tex. 1995). As the Texas Supreme Court has observed:

  "In this state it is now a settled doctrine that anticipation of consequences is a necessary element in determining not only whether a particular act or omission is actionably negligent, but also whether the injury complained of is proximately caused by such act or omission. This doctrine is the result of an effort by the courts to avoid as far as possible the metaphysical and philosophical niceties in the age-old discussion of causation, and to lay down a rule of general application which will, as nearly as may be done by a general rule, apply a practical test, the test of common experience, to human conduct when determining legal rights and legal liability. Actual anticipation is of course not in any sense the test; but what one should under the circumstances reasonably anticipate as consequences of his conduct."  Houston Lighting & Power Co. v. Brooks, 161 Tex. 32, 336 S.W.2d 603, 606-07 (1960).
         
    Forseeability requires that a person of ordinary intelligence should have anticipated the danger created by a negligent act or omission.  Doe v. Boys Clubs of Greater Dallas, Inc., 907 S.W.2d 472, 478 (Tex. 1995). The danger of injury is foreseeable if its general character might reasonably have been anticipated. Doe v. Boys Clubs of Greater Dallas, Inc., 907 S.W.2d 472, 478 (Tex. 1995).  

    The question of forseeability involves a practical inquiry based on "common experience applied to human conduct."  City of Gladewater v. Pike, 727 S.W.2d 514, 518 (Tex. 1987).


Producing Cause


      "Producing cause" is a less stringent standard of legal causation than "proximate cause." It is basically cause in fact without the forseeability requirement.

       In the past, the Texas Pattern Jury Charge defined “producing cause” “as an efficient, exciting, or contributing cause that, in a natural sequence, produces the incident in question. There may be more than one producing cause.” 

In Ford Motor Co. v. Ledesma, the Texas Supreme Court held that this Pattern Jury Charge definition was

"incomplete and, more importantly, provides little concrete guidance to the jury.  Juries must ponder the meaning of 'efficient' and 'exciting' in this context.  These adjectives are foreign to modern English language as a means to describe a cause, and offer little practical help to a jury striving to make the often difficult causation determination in a products case.”

Ford Motor Co. v. Ledesma
, 242 S.W.3d 32, 46 (Tex.2007).

   The court held that the proper definition of “producing cause” is "that cause which, in a natural sequence, was a substantial factor in bringing about an event, and without which the event would not have occurred. There may be more than one producing cause."
Ford Motor Co. v. Ledesma, 242 S.W.3d 32, 45 (Tex.2007).

     Defining producing cause as being a substantial factor in bringing about an injury, and without which the injury would not have occurred, is easily understood and conveys the essential components of producing cause that (1) the cause must be a substantial cause of the event in issue and (2) it must be a but-for cause, namely one without which the event would not have occurred. Ford Motor Co. v. Ledesma, 242 S.W.3d 32, 46 (Tex.2007).
Website Builder