An intervening act will be called a superseding cause (or act) that relieves the original defendant of liability when the intervening act was or should have been reasonably foreseeable to the original defendant. Understanding Independent Intervening Causes. “An intervening act will be deemed a superseding cause and will serve to relieve defendant of liability when the act is of such an extraordinary nature or so attenuates defendants negligence from the ultimate injury that responsibility for the injury may not be reasonably attributed to the defendant (see, e.g., Martinez v. Thus, to answer the legendary question posed by Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber, “So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?” for summary judgment, the answer is “Yes.”  With that said, the stars must very much align to put a defendant in a position to obtain a summary judgment order, holding the intervening and superseding act (or acts) operate to preclude recovery by the plaintiff as a matter of law. Thus, notwithstanding Hancock’s “scintilla of the evidence” standard, the trial court’s discretion to engage in a critical analysis of the facts, as articulated in Bass, Bloom, and Small remains good law in South Carolina. causing the injury. The information provided on this site is not legal advice, does not constitute a lawyer referral service, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is or will be formed by use of the site. Is there a prospect for summary judgment or is the defendant absolutely forced to submit the case to a trial jury? Legal cause is proved by establishing foreseeability. So, what is the recipe for success for a defendant seeking summary judgment in an intervening and superseding act case? This has an effect on who should be held liable for the damages caused by the accident. If the employee is acting unreasonably when the event occurred, the event will be deemed an independent cause of disability and the employee can be denied benefits. It must be truly independent and not set in motion by the defendant’s negligence. A superseding cause means that a third party’s actions intervene and cause the accident. Learn more about proving fault in a personal injury case. A superseding or intervening act is one that breaks the chain of causation linking a defendant s wrongful act and an injury or harm suffered by a plaintiff. Let’s look at an example of this. • “[A]n intervening act does not amount to a ‘superseding cause’ relieving the negligent defendant of liability if it was reasonably foreseeable: ‘[An] actor may be liable if his negligence is a substantial factor in causing an injury, and he is Hurd v. Williamsburg Cty., 363 S.C. 421, 611 S.E.2d 488 (2005); Rush v. Blanchard, 310 S.C. 375, 426 S.E.2d 802 (1993). Let’s say a person is getting off a bus in a parking lot. Some seemingly independent events are actually foreseeable consequences of … In other words, your injury wouldn’t have happened but for the negligent act. INTERVENING NEGLIGENCE and difficult when that act is a negligent one.7 The question then becomes: Should the intervening negligence of X be regarded as a "superseding cause," relieving D of liability? 1 NOTE WELL: Insulating negligence, also referred to in North Carolina case law as intervening or superseding negligence, Barber v. Constien, 130 N.C. App. Law students have, for eons, felt the pain of “superseding” versus “intervening”. Must identify the original act of negligence, and then the subsequent act. Stone,251 S.C.at, 162, 161 S.E.2d at 173–74 (1968) (citation omitted). Superseding cause is a defense to negligence. Cowan, supra, 111 N.J.at 465. Results achieved on behalf of clients do not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients. This hurdle got that much higher with the Supreme Court’s decision in Hancock v. Mid–South Management Company, Inc., 381 S.C. 326, 330, 673 S.E.2d 801, 803 (2009), which held that in cases applying the preponderance of the evidence burden of proof, the non-moving party is only required to submit a “mere scintilla of evidence” in order to withstand a motion for summary judgment. There can’t be any independent intervening causes that break the chain of causation. In contrast to an intervening cause, which does not relieve the original defendant of liability, a superseding cause usually does relieve the original defendant of liability. 380, 383, 502 … As outlined below, the prospect for summary judgment in a South Carolina dispute exists based upon the recognized defense of intervening and superseding act; however, for such a disposition to come to fruition, the defendant seeking it is in for a tight rope ride. An intervening cause may break the connection between the injury and the defendant’s action, and thus destroy a negligence claim. A defendant's superseding intervening cause argument was characterized by that court as "nothing more than an improper attempt to inject comparative negligence principles into this strict product liability action." Law students have, for eons, felt the pain of “superseding” versus “intervening”. The key difference between an intervening cause and a superseding cause is foreseeability. causing the injury. 1986) (“Only in rare or exceptional cases may the question of proximate cause be decided as a matter of law.”). This is because our courts have held generally that when, between original negligence and the occurrence of an injury, there intervenes a willful, malicious, and criminal act of a third person producing the injury, but that such was not intended by the negligent person and could not have been foreseen by him, the causal chain between the negligence and the accident is broken. Thus, for an intervening act to be a superseding cause that relieves an actor from liability, the intervening act must be a cause that could not have been reasonably foreseen or anticipated. Start studying Negligence: intervening superseding cause. “Thus, if an injury is produced by an intervening and superseding cause, even though the original negligence may have been a substantial factor in bringing about the injury, the original actor is not legally responsible therefore because the necessary proximate cause is … superseding cause — An act of a third person or other force which by its intervention prevents the actor from being liable for harm to another which his antecedent negligence is a substantial factor in bringing about. But in this situation, the actions of the car driver may be considered a superseding cause of the passenger's injuries, whether or not the bus company could also be considered negligent. Superseding Cause. A favorable set of facts—when viewed objectively and honestly–is key. In these jurisdictions intervening cause describes any cause that comes between a defendant's conduct and the resulting injury, and an intervening cause that relieves a defendant of liability is called a superseding cause. Professors throw these terms around as if they are household words. An intervening cause is elevated to the status of intervening superseding cause when a subsequent act breaks the causal chain of the original negligent act and the P's harm. The intervening cause must occur between the defendant’s negligent act and the plaintiff’s injury, and it must have caused injury to the plaintiff. All Rights Reserved. [5] It has been held a third party’s intervening acts of wrongdoing do not break the causal chain if the acts were foreseeable. The attorney listings on this site are paid attorney advertising. Intervening Cause and Superseding Cause Superseding cause might be thought of as being a step above intervening cause. “An intervening act will be deemed a superseding cause and will serve to relieve defendant of liability when the act is of such an extraordinary nature or so attenuates defendants negligence from the ultimate injury that responsibility for the injury may … (Get the basics on negligence in a personal injury case.). ‘Concurrent negligence consists of the negligence of two or more If the original negligence continues to the time of the injury and contributes substantially thereto in conjunction with the intervening act, each may be a proximate, concurring cause for which full liability may be imposed. Donegan v. Website by. The term superseding cause refers to some event that occurs after the initial act that caused an accident, or some other injury. Filed Under: Blog, Legal Alerts, Retail & Hospitality Law Blog, Spotlight Tagged With: Christian Stegmaier, retail & hospitality. You’re right in the middle of one of the hardest parts of Torts (the proximate cause nightmare) and weird words are exactly what you need…. There are three varieties of intervening acts. An independent intervening cause is an act or event (by a party other than the defendant) that happens after the negligent act and injures the plaintiff. An intervening act, which is a normal response created by negligence, is not a superseding, intervening cause so as to relieve the original wrongdoer of liability, provided the intervening act could have reasonably been foreseen and the conduct was a substantial factor in … Defendants seeking summary judgment can be comforted that courts in the post-Hancock era can and will engage in critical analysis and make the pronouncement that sole reasonable inferences lead only to a decision for the defendant prosecuting the summary judgment motion. The court must determine whether the employee was acting unreasonably when the event occurred. Sparks from the fire cause Petrol's truck to explode, sending the fire on the way to Rancher's barns and home, which burn down. But what happens when an intervening and superseding act occurs between the original act of alleged negligence and injury, which calls into question whether the original alleged tortfeasor is liable for the plaintiff’s purported damages? Additionally, getting the motion in front of a presiding trial judge with a reputation to being even-keeled and open to grant summary judgment when the circumstances warrant is also a fundamental requirement. Put all these together and a defendant pursuing such an outcome has a fighting chance. A superseding cause is an unforeseeable intervening cause. 2009), aff’d, 395 S.C. 129, 716 S.E.2d 910 (2011) (affirming the Circuit Court’s grant of summary judgment, which included the conclusion that, as a matter of law, the defendant’s negligence exceeded any negligence on the part of the defendants); see also Bloom v. Ravoira, 339 S.C. 417, 422, 529 S.E.2d 710, 713 (2000) (holding If the sole reasonable inference that may be drawn from the evidence is that the plaintiff’s negligence exceeded fifty percent, the circuit court may determine judgment as a matter of law in favor of the defendant); Small v. Pioneer Mach., Inc., 329 S.C. 448, 464, 494 S.E.2d 835, 843 (Ct. App. A superseding or intervening act is one that is the immediate and sole cause of the injury or harm. The original defendant will usually still be considered at least partially liable for the plaintiff’s injury even when an intervening cause is said to exist. The independent intervening cause in this case was due to the Carpenter’s own conduct in refusing to take his medication in accordance with his doctor’s instructions. Id. Copyright © 2020 Collins & Lacy, P.C. Oliver v. South Carolina Dep’t of Hwys. In other words, a superseding cause is an intervening act that is legally sufficient to transfer blame for the harm in question from the defendant to a third party, or to a natural event. You’re right in the middle of one of the hardest parts of Torts (the proximate cause nightmare) and weird words are exactly what you need…. When making determinations regarding whether proximate cause exists, parties will want to consider whether a superseding or intervening cause for a claimant’s injury is a defense to claims. An intervening cause is an event that occurs after the defendant’s negligence that contributes to the plaintiff’s harm. 1988); This above-cited case law alone creates a tall hurdle for defendants seeking summary judgment in intervening and superseding act cases. at 316, 422 S.E.2d at 130. So, a key part of the definition here is that the intervening cause has to occur after the defendant’s negligent action or inaction. In a superseding intervening cause action, just as in a regular negligence action, there are two parts to determining legal cause. An injury is foreseeable if it is the natural and probable consequence of a breach of duty. Copyright © 2020 MH Sub I, LLC dba Nolo ® Self-help services may not be permitted in all states. This has an effect on who should be held liable for the damages caused by the accident. In a negligence action, the plaintiff must prove proximately-caused damages. 3. The intervening cause must occur between the defendant’s negligent act and the plaintiff’s injury, and it must have caused injury to the plaintiff. A superseding cause disrupts the causal chain because the link between the defendant’s conduct and … A negligence claim will only succeed if you prove that your injury was actually caused by the defendant’s negligence. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. It is always for the jury, except when the facts are such that they will support only one reasonable inference.”) (footnote and emphasis in original omitted). Id. In contrast to an intervening cause, which does not relieve the original defendant of liability, a superseding cause usually does relieve the original defendant of liability. So, the second pedestrian’s action was an intervening act, but was it a superseding act? The defense of superseding intervening cause is a defense that uses negligence principles. In some states, the information on this website may be considered a lawyer referral service. • “Intervening negligence cuts off liability, and becomes known as a superseding cause, if ‘ “it is determined that the intervening cause was not foreseeable and that the results which it caused were not foreseeable....” ’ ” (Martinez, supra, Petrol's negligence is an intervening cause which gets Flameout off the liability hook. See Ballou v. Sigma Nu Gen. Whether an intervening act breaks the causal connection between the original alleged tortious act and subsequent injury is a typically question for the fact finder and this determination will not be disturbed on appeal unless found to be without evidence which reasonably supports finding. Sign up to receive our e-mail newsletters straight to your inbox! Collins & Sons Fine Jewelry, Inc. v. Carolina Safety Sys., Inc., 296 S.C. 219, 371 S.E.2d 539 (Ct. App. As the Supreme Court of Georgia pointed out, the effect of intervening or superseding causes depends upon whether the act of a third party will render the earlier act too remote to maintain the liability of the defendant. The bus passenger who got hit sues the bus company for failing to provide a safe place for passengers to disembark. Stegmaier welcomes your questions at (803) 255-0454 or cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com. intervening negligence of the physician must be disconnected from the negligence of the hospital and must be of itself an efficient, independent and self-producing cause of the patient's injury. The term superseding cause refers to some event that occurs after the initial act that caused an accident, or some other injury. If the original negligence continues to the time of the injury and contributes substantially thereto in conjunction with the intervening act, each may be a proximate, concurring cause for which full liability may be imposed. Only when the evidence is susceptible to only one inference does it become a matter of law for the court.”) (citations omitted); Leon Green, Rationale of Proximate Cause 132 (1927) (“Causal relation is one of fact. An intervening cause will generally absolve the tortfeasor of liability for the victim's injury only if the event is deemed a superseding cause. Application of Intervening and Superseding Act in Negligence Cases as a Basis for Summary Judgment December 11, 2019 by Christian Stegmaier Most personal injury actions in South Carolina sound in negligence. Voting Absentee in South Carolina in the 2020 Election, Announcing THE LEGAL BENCH, Our New Podcast, South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission to Reactivate Fines for Reports and Forms on May 1, 2020. This website is for informational purposes only. Hurd, 363 S.C. at 428, 611 S.E.2d at 492. In tort law, an intervening cause is an event that occurs after a tortfeasor's initial act of negligence and causes injury/harm to a victim. Like an intervening cause, a superseding cause occurs between the defendant’s action and the plaintiff’s injury, … A superseding cause sufficient to become the proximate cause of the final result and relieve defendant of liability for his original negligence, arises only when an intervening force was unforeseeable and may be described, with … ... A superseding cause is an unforeseeable intervening cause. See, e.g., Bass v. Gopal, 384 S.C. 238, 247, 680 S.E.2d 917 (Ct. App. Intervening cause — An intervening cause is a potential defense to the tort of negligence, if it is an unforeseeable, and therefore superseding intervening cause, rather than a foreseeable intervening cause.For example, if a defendant had carelessly spilled gasoline … Wikipedia However, “scintilla of the evidence” does not mean “suspend all judgment” or give license to the court to refuse to critically examine the fact pattern to determine if a genuine issue of material fact exists. In other words, an unforeseeable or improbable intervening cause will constitute a superseding cause, and will allow a defendant to escape liability. Sometimes this is called supervening cause or superseding. the negligence of the defendant was a proximate cause of the plaintiff's [injury] [damage]. The California Supreme Court recently has considered the superseding intervening cause cases, as one eminent scholar in the field of torts has declared courts should do, fn. In a negligence action, the plaintiff must prove proximately-caused damages. Arguably, the lack of foreseeably analysis becomes easier for the moving party when the intervening and superseding act in question is of an intentional and/or criminal nature. A superseding cause, also known as an “intervening cause,” may be proven to have substantially caused the accident. Collins & Sons Fine Jewelry, 296 S.C. at 229, 371 S.E.2d at 545 (Ct. App. Do Not Sell My Personal Information. 1995) (holding that for intervening act to break causal link, intervening act must be unforeseeable). In other words, an unforeseeable or improbable intervening cause will constitute a superseding cause, and will allow a defendant to escape liability. He is also active in the firm’s professional liability and appellate practices. Let’s say that a homeowner digs a hole into a sidewalk and negligently leaves it open without any warning to pedestrians. This is the biggest difference between an intervening cause and a superseding cause. Defenses against Negligence A. Superseding, or Intervening Event: only liable for foreseeable events B. Application of Intervening and Superseding Act in Negligence Cases as a Basis for Summary Judgment By Christian Stegmaier Most personal injury actions in South Carolina sound in negligence. Causation in fact is proved by establishing the plaintiff’s injury would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s negligence. Model Jury Charge (Civil) 6.14; see alsoDavis v. • “ [A]n intervening act does not amount to a ‘superseding cause’ relieving the negligent defendant of liability if it was reasonably foreseeable: ‘ [An] actor may be liable if his negligence is a substantial factor in causing an injury, and he is not relieved of liability because of the intervening act of a … Hurd v. Williamsburg Cty., 363 S.C. 421, 611 S.E.2d 488 (2005); Rush v. Not all intervening acts are superseding causes. Transp., 309 S.C. 313, 422 S.E.2d 128 (1992). An independent intervening cause can be reckless or intentional misconduct or negligence. The second pedestrian was also likely negligent for crowding the plaintiff into the hole. Superseding cause is a defense to negligence. Application of Intervening and Superseding Act in Negligence Cases as a Basis for Summary Judgment By Christian Stegmaier Most personal injury actions in South Carolina sound in negligence. superseding cause n. the same as an "intervening cause," or "supervening cause," which is an event which occurs after the initial act leading to an accident, and substantially causes the accident. ‘Concurrent negligence consists of the negligence of two or more Other jurisdictions do not use the term superseding cause. Most personal injury actions in South Carolina sound in negligence. The independent intervening cause in this case was due to the Carpenter’s own conduct in refusing to take his medication in accordance with his doctor’s instructions. Fraternity, 291 S.C. 140, 147, 352 S.E.2d 488, 493 (Ct. App. And as part of establishing the negligence, the injured person must show that the at-fault party's action (or inaction) was a cause (sometimes called a "proximate" cause in legalese) of the resulting injuries. In a negligence action, the … Small v. Pioneer Mach., Inc., 329 S.C. 448, 467, 494 S.E.2d 835, 844 (Ct. App. The answer is probably no because the intervening action was (or should have been) reasonably foreseeable to the homeowner. As well, the adroit use of discovery devices from the inception of the case such as well-drafted requests to admit and carefully crafted deposition questions built to engender admissions from the plaintiff and material witnesses, which support the conclusion that the evidence is susceptible to only one inference, is mission critical too. 1997) (citing Young v. Tide Craft, Inc., 270 S.C. 453, 242 S.E.2d 671 (1978); see also Bramlette v. Charter–Medical–Columbia, 302 S.C. 68, 393 S.E.2d 914 (1990) (ruling primary wrongdoer’s action is legal cause of injury if either intervening act or injury itself was foreseeable as natural and probable consequence of that action); Stone v. Bethea, 251 S.C. 157, 161–62, 161 S.E.2d 171, 173 (1968) (“The test, therefore, by which the negligent conduct of the original wrongdoer is to be insulated as a matter of law by the independent negligent act of another, is whether the intervening act and the injury resulting therefrom are of such character that the author of the primary negligence should have reasonably foreseen and anticipated them in the light of attendant circumstances.”). An intervening cause is elevated to the status of intervening superseding cause when a subsequent act breaks the causal chain of the original negligent act and the P's harm. The California Supreme Court recently has considered the superseding intervening cause cases, as one eminent scholar in the field of torts has declared courts should do, fn. If, after the defendant acts negligently toward the plaintiff, a new cause combines with the defendant’s negligence to contribute to or worsen the plaintiff’s injury, that new cause is sometimes called an "intervening cause." In some jurisdictions, an intervening cause that removes liability is called a superseding cause. A superseding cause, also known as an “intervening cause,” may be proven to have substantially caused the accident. 1997) (“The particular facts and circumstances of each case determine whether the question of proximate cause should be decided by the court or by the jury. Intervening and superseding causes—which occur when the action of a third party, or even an act of nature, play a role in causing the plaintiff’s injury—disrupt this so-called "causal chain" and can diminish or even wipe out the defendant's liability, which means intervening and superseding causes can reduce or eliminate your ability to get fair compensation ("damages") for your injuries. Like an intervening cause, a superseding cause occurs between the defendant’s action and the plaintiff’s injury, … labelling superseding cause as "an act of a third person or other force which by its intervention prevents the actor from being liable for harm to another which his antecedent negligence is a. substantial factor in & Pub. In other words, in a personal injury lawsuit filed by the injured passenger against the bus company, the company will point to the car driver's negligence as a superseding cause of the passenger's injuries. Although the courts are divided on this question,8 they often hold that a negligent intervening 1988); see also Dixon v. Besco Eng’g, Inc., 320 S.C. 174, 463 S.E.2d 636 (Ct. App. An independent intervening cause can be reckless or intentional misconduct or negligence. Proximate cause requires proof of both causation in fact and legal cause. Please reference the Terms of Use and the Supplemental Terms for specific information related to your state. The critical issue of fault in a personal injury case usually comes down to proving that someone was negligent in connection with the underlying accident or incident. Even where a defendant’s conduct may be a source of negligence, the negligence may not be the proximate cause of the claimed injury. superseding cause n. the same as an "intervening cause" or "supervening cause," which is an event which occurs after the initial act leading to an accident and substantially causes the accident. III. The question which naturally arises is whether the determination of superseding cause in this context is a … Those taken by third parties those taken by the claimant themselves, and those which are acts of nature. If you leave an open hole in a sidewalk, it's reasonable to foresee someone falling into it, especially if the sidewalk is crowded. Superseding cause is when an independent event occurred during an accident that keeps the negligent party (the defendant) safe from liability. Christian Stegmaier is a shareholder and chair of the Retail & Hospitality Practice Group at Collins & Lacy in Columbia. The first part of the analysis is the cause-in-fact analysis, which is a determination of whether the defendant’s actions were a “cause-in-fact” of the injuries. It can be achieved, but it’s a challenge. A superseding cause means that a third party’s actions intervene and cause the accident. Intervening Acts (Or Novus Actus Interveniens) It is also possible for certain events to break the chain of causation between the defendant’s actions and the claimant’s injuries.