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3.1.1 Causation - Introduction

Welcome to the first lesson of the third topic in this module guide – Causation! For a successful claim in negligence, it must be possible to show that a defendant’s conduct in fact caused the damage that the claimant suffered. Causation is established on the balance of probabilities, using the ‘but for’ test.

At the completion of this section, you should be comfortable understanding how to apply the ‘but for’ test to establish causation. You will understand how concurrent and subsequent causes can muddy the waters, but also how to deal with these different factual scenarios. You will also learn to deal with cases where the harm involved is a loss of chance. 

This section begins by discussing factual causation and the application of the ‘but for’ test, explaining the burden of proof and the all or nothing approach to damages. It then goes on to discuss specific rules of factual causation, which will involve a discussion of both multiple concurrent causes and multiple successive causes. It will finally discuss the situation where the damage has caused the loss of a chance.

Goals for this section

  • To understand how to establish causation using the ‘but for’ test.
  • To understand how to establish causation where there are multiple or successive causes.

Objectives for this section

  • To be able to define the ‘but for test’.
  • To understand the all or nothing approach to liability.
  • To know the burden of proof regarding issues of causation.
  • To understand how to deal with multiple concurrent causes using the material contribution rule.
  • To understand how to deal with multiple concurrent cases where an employer has contributed materially to the risk of an injury occurring.
  • To be able to deal with cases of multiple successive causes by knowing that the perpetrator of the former cause will be held liable for the damage.
  • To understand how courts deal with ‘lost chance’ cases by applying the 50% rule.
  • To understand how this may be departed from in favour of the claimant where it would vindicate their rights.

Start the Lecture

We have three lengths of lecture to suit varying study needs. Select one of the options below to get started (if you have already chosen a study level you will see the option highlighted in violet):

Summary Notes Standard Lecture Detailed Lecture

Problem Questions

Each lecture is also accompanied by hands on examples of problem questions for the subject. You can jump directly to the questions below:

Hands on Examples


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