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Tort Law - Causation

injury damages proximate liability

Causation is an element common to all three branches of torts: strict liability, negligence, and intentional wrongs. Causation has two prongs. First, a tort must be the cause in fact of a particular injury, which means that a specific act must actually have resulted in injury to another. In its simplest form, cause in fact is established by evidence that shows that a tortfeasor's act or omission was a necessary antecedent to the plaintiff's injury. Courts analyze this issue by determining whether the plaintiff's injury would have occurred "but for" the defendant's conduct. If an injury would have occurred independent of the defendant's conduct, cause in fact has not been established, and no tort has been committed. When multiple factors have led to a particular injury, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the tortfeasor's action played a substantial role in causing the injury.

Second, plaintiffs must establish that a particular tort was the proximate cause of an injury before liability will be imposed. The term proximate cause is somewhat misleading because it has little to do with proximity or causation. Proximate cause limits the scope of liability to those injuries that bear some reasonable relationship to the risk created by the defendant. Proximate cause is evaluated in terms of foresee-ability. If the defendant should have foreseen the tortious injury, he or she will be held liable for the resulting loss. If a given risk could not have been reasonably anticipated, proximate cause has not been established, and liability will not be imposed.

When duty, breach, and proximate cause have been established in a tort action, the plaintiff may recover damages for the pecuniary losses sustained. The measure of damages is determined by the nature of the tort committed and the type of injury suffered. Damages for tortious acts generally fall into one of four categories: damages for injury to person, damages for injury to PERSONAL PROPERTY, damages for injury to real property, and PUNITIVE DAMAGES.

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