Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Causation Definition:

The cause and effect relationship between an act or omission and damages alleged in a tort or personal injury action.

Related Terms: Causa Causans, Causa Sine Qua Non, Causa Proxima Et Non Remota Spectatur, Fault, Negligence, In Jure Non Remota Causa Sed Proxima Spectatur, But For, Tort, Superseding Cause

In Swanson Estate, Justice Linden of the Federal Court of Canada and the author of Tort Law, offered a succinct definition:

"In addition to a duty and a breach of duty, the plaintiffs, in order to recover, must establish that the defendant caused their loss. Normally, the test employed to decide the causation issue is the but for test. If the accident would not have occurred but for the conduct of the defendant, there was causation.

"If the accident would have occurred in any event, there was no causation.

"Where multiple forces contribute to an accident, the test is modified; if a person's negligence substantially contributed to an accident, it is also a cause of the accident. It is, therefore, possible to be a cause of an accident by acting along with others, or by failing to prevent it. "

causationIn Snell, the late Justice Sopinka of Canada's Supreme Court wrote:

"Causation is an expression of the relationship that must be found to exist between the tortious act of the wrongdoer and the injury to the victim in order to justify compensation of the latter out of the pocket of the former."

In Devloo v R., the Court noted Sopinka's words in Snell and deferred to the but for principle to describe the causation in a tort action:

"[A] plaintiff is required to prove on a balance of probabilities that but for a defendant's negligence he would not have suffered the injury of which he complains."

In Alphacell, Justice Salmon of the House of Lords added that causation is:

" ... essentially a practical question of fact which can best be answered by ordinary common sense rather than abstract metaphysical theory."

In Leyland, Justice Shaw noted:

"Causation is not a chain, but a net. At each point influences, forces, events, precedent and simultaneous meet, and the radiation from each point extends infinitely."


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