Talk:Proximate cause

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Concurrent Cause[edit]

A concurrent cause is listed as a circumstance in which the "but for" test is ineffective. The section provides the following example: "[A] construction worker negligently leaves the cover off a manhole, and a careless driver negligently clips a pedestrian, forcing the pedestrian to fall into the open manhole. Both the construction worker and the careless driver are equally liable for the injury to the pedestrian." Is the "but for" test ineffective in this example? But for the missing manhole, the injury would not have occurred. Also, but for the careless driving, the injury would not have occurred. The fact that another condition was also needed does not seem to make the "but for" test ineffective. (Note that this other condition could also be another party's nontortious behaviour or even a natural condition.) I have not modified the article, as I thought some discussion might be warranted first.--Rpclod (talk) 13:36, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

Condoleeza Rice reference removed[edit]

I have removed the following reference to Condoleezza Rice from the article, as it seems waaay off topic:

  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice*
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has begun using the phrase/concept of proximate cause to explain the Iraq War instead of immediately going after the perpetrators of the September 11th Attacks:
" The fact of the matter is that when we were attacked on September 11, we had a choice to make. We could decide that the proximate cause was al Qaeda and the people who flew those planes into buildings and, therefore, we would go after al Qaeda ... or we could take a bolder approach."

This is, in my opinion, a blip that has nothing to do with the law of proximate cause. I'll gladly entertain arguments as to why it should be included.  BD2412 talk 15:30, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

  • It shouldn't be there. 'Nuff said. I think that this tends to apply to lots of other articles too. Simply because a word is used in a given context, doesn't mean it ought to be in an encyclopedia article (eg. indemnity/indemnification)Mmmbeer 17:29, 17 October 2005 (UTC)
    • I concur. --Coolcaesar 04:31, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

Merge proposal[edit]

Reasons for the merge have not been proposed here, and as there has been no response after more than four weeks, I am removing the merge proposal. What is more appropriate here is for Proximate cause to be moved to Proximate cause (law), and Proximate causation to become a disambiguation page with a link to Proximate cause (law) as it currently refers to uses of the notion in both Philosophy and Ethology. Following this I will write a move request for Proximate cause. Tug201 14:20, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

The following discussion is an archived debate of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the debate was no consensus for moving. --Dijxtra 13:41, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

Proximate causeProximate cause (law) – In order to avoid confusion with Proximate causation, which would then become a disambiguation page and include a link to Proximate cause (law) Tug201 14:40, 19 September 2006 (UTC)


Add "* Support" or "* Oppose" followed by an optional one-sentence explanation, then sign your opinion with ~~~~

  • Oppose. Proximate cause in law is the better known usage because besides its common use among lawyers, it actually gets mentioned on TV and in magazines, unlike proximate cause in philosophy (I wasn't aware that such a thing existed). --Coolcaesar 01:20, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Coolcaesar. Kafziel 18:05, 20 September 2006 (UTC)


Add any additional comments.

  • Of course! Why don't we rename it to: "Proximate cause (as seen on TV)"? Tug201 15:40, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
    • I think you missed the point of Coolcaesar's reasoning. The fact that it is mentioned on TV is not the reason he gave for opposing. The reason is that one is well-used and familiar, one is not. The mention of television was just an illustration of that. Similar titles get disambiguation notes at the tops of their pages; they don't get moved around to convoluted titles to avoid confusion. If anything, the "philosophy" one should be merged and redirected to the legal article (as it was tagged to do before you removed it). The only difference I can see between the two is that the philosophy one says "In philosopy..."; the definitions are essentially the same. Kafziel Talk 15:50, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Immanuel Kant[edit]

I know this won't keep it from being tidied out of existence, but I love the parenthetical interjection addressed to Immanuel Kant. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:48, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

Factual Cause v. Proximate Cause[edit]

This article discusses factual cause in the law. Proximate cause is an entirely different subject, legally speaking. The article should be retitled, and a stub should be created for proximate cause.

John D. Rue (talk) 19:11, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004) refers to "factual cause" as "but-for cause" and defines the latter as: "The cause without which the event could not have occurred." Black's defines "proximate cause" as "1. A cause that is legally sufficient to result in liability; an act or omission that is considered in law to result in a consequence, so that liability can be imposed on the actor. 2. A cause that directly produces an event and without which the event would not have occurred." The definition of factual (a.k.a., "but-for") cause is basically the same as one of two definitions of proximate cause. Black's quotes Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts § 41, at 264 (5th ed. 1984): "'Proximate cause' -- in itself an unfortunate term -- is merely the limitation which the courts have placed upon the actor's responsibility for the consequences of the actor's conduct. In a philosophical sense, the consequences of an act go forward to eternity, and the causes of an event go back to the dawn of human events, and beyond. But any attempt to impose responsibility upon such a basis would result in infinite liability for all wrongful acts, and would 'set society on edge and fill the courts with endless litigation.' [North v. Johnson, 58 Minn. 242, 59 N.W. 1012 (1894).] As a practical matter, legal responsibility must be limited to those causes which are so closely connected with the result and of such significance that the law is justified in imposing liability. Some boundary must be set to liability for the consequences of any act, upon the basis of some social idea of justice or policy." As such, proximate cause is a limited form of cause in general and is distinct from remote cause (not factual cause). Another distinct type of cause is intervening or superseding cause, which effectively terminates another party's proximate cause.
Westlaw lists the keycode for "but-for" causation (272k379k) under that for "Proximate Cause" (272XIII). Per Westlaw, the most cited case for this legal issue in the U.S. is Doe v. Boys Clubs of Greater Dallas, Inc., 907 S.W.2d 472 (Tex.1995). "The elements of a negligence cause of action are a duty, a breach of that duty, and damages proximately caused by the breach of duty. * * * The components of proximate cause are cause in fact and foreseeability. * * * The test for cause in fact is whether the negligent “act or omission was a substantial factor in bringing about injury,” without which the harm would not have occurred." Boys Clubs at 477. Although this opinion refers to factual cause as a "component" of proximate cause, perhaps one can consider proximate cause and remote cause as the two subsets of factual cause, with foreseeability and substantiality as distinguishing features.--Rpclod (talk) 13:22, 15 May 2009 (UTC)

-Added comment by Anon-

I like the previous article, however the last sentence is very hypothetical. It verges on reification where it assumes that factual cause is real, or can be defined, or broken apart into other real components.

I really enjoyed reading this, and would appreciate it being added to the main page. I agree with the poster, the page is unclear. I was not sure if it was defining causation in fact or proximate cause. I believe this ambiguity is further compounded when the author floats between the two subjects without adequate grammatical clarification. See:

"The doctrine of proximate cause is notoriously confusing [as is this wording]. The doctrine is phrased in the language of causation, but in most of the cases in which causation is contested, there is not much real dispute that the defendant but-for caused the plaintiff's injury. The doctrine is actually used by judges to limit the scope of the defendant's liability to a subset of the total class of potential plaintiffs who suffered some harm from the defendant's actions."

I'm not sure how the language referred to is confusing, what language he is referring to, or which causation criteria [s]he is talking about. I feel a better wording would be:

"Cases in which causation is in dispute rarely challenge that the defendant's act was a "but-for" cause of the plaintiff's injury; proximate cause is the focus of contention. As a judiciary limit on the scope of liability, proximate cause serves to allow recovery only for a subset of those injured by the defendant's acts. Although proximate cause is defined in similar terms as cause-in-fact, it deals less with cause and more with effect."


My comment concerns the section titled "Proximate cause" and the example where "but for the rain, you would not have crashed your car." The article suggests that even though rain may actually be a "but-for" cause, it is not considered "culpable" because rain would not satisfy proximate cause. That is erroneous.

The reason that rain is not deemed culpable -- even though it is truly one of the causes of the car accident -- is that the rain did not breach a duty to the injured person. To put it more precisely, the rain does not have a duty. This lack of culpability due to the absence of a duty is not limited to liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then become heavy enough to fall under gravity. It is also true of any person who did not have a duty in the given situation. For example, a pharmacist attending to a customer in his store located near the scene of the above-mentioned car accident is not deemed culpable for the accident. Not because the pharmacist's actions do not satisfy proximate cause. But rather because the pharmacist did not breach a duty -- because he had no duty in that scenario.