Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case discussing the element of causation. Specifically, the court was tasked with determining if a party responsible for an accident that occurred several years earlier could be held liable for a subsequent accident that was caused in part by the accident victim’s inability to avoid the accident, due to the injuries they sustained in the initial accident years before.
Not surprisingly, the court determined that the plaintiff’s theory of causation was too attenuated to hold the party that was allegedly at fault for the initial accident responsible for the later accident.
The Facts of the Case
In 2005, a man was seriously injured when a tire on the vehicle in which he was riding as a passenger blew out, causing the vehicle to collide with a telephone pole. As a result of the injuries he sustained, the man’s mobility was severely limited, and he was forced to get around by using a motorized scooter.
Initially, the man filed a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer of the tire. That case was resolved in favor of the defense, but it was later reversed on appeal. The man did not re-file the case.
In 2011, the man was struck by a car as he was traveling across an intersection while using the crosswalk. He died days later. After the man’s death, his daughter filed a wrongful death case against the tire manufacturer – the original defendant from the 2005 case. The plaintiff’s theory was that her father’s mobility was limited due to the alleged negligence of the tire manufacturer. Since her father’s mobility was limited and he had to use a motorized scooter, he was unable to avoid the 2011 accident that ultimately caused his death.
The Court’s Discussion
The court rejected the plaintiff’s claim that any alleged negligence on the part of the tire manufacturer was the cause of her father’s death. The court began by noting that, when analyzing causation, California courts use the “substantial factor test.” Under this test, “cause in fact is something that is a substantial factor in bringing about the injury.” The court agreed that the tire manufacturer set forth a chain of events that ultimately led to the accident causing the plaintiff’s father’s death.
However, the court went on to explain that there was still the question of whether there was a sufficient link between the defendant’s actions and the man’s death to hold the defendant legally responsible. The court concluded that the connection between the two was too attenuated and that any negligence on the manufacturer’s part was not the proximate cause of the man’s death. The court explained that the second accident was not a foreseeable result of the tire manufacturer’s negligence and that the negligence of the driver who struck the man while he was crossing the street constituted an intervening cause. As a result, the court rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the tire manufacturer was liable for her father’s death.
Have You Been Injured in a California Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated California personal injury lawyers at Sharifi Firm have decades of experience representing victims and their families in cases against the people and organizations responsible for their injuries. To learn more, call 866-422-7222 to schedule a free consultation today.
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