3.2.1 Intervening Acts and Remoteness - Introduction

Welcome to the second lesson of the third topic in this module guide – Intervening Acts and Remoteness! Intervening acts can break the chain of causation between a defendant’s act and the final outcome. Alternatively, negligence that results in an unanticipated outcome may cause damage that is very remote from the defendant’s act. Either scenario may mean that legal causation cannot be established, even where factual causation can be.

At the end of this section, you should be comfortable understanding and applying the rules relating to legal causation. In particular you should understand how foreseeability relates to issues of remoteness, and how the concept has been defined by the courts in a range of factual scenarios. You should be able to address the range of situations that may involve an intervening act or event, and you should be able to determine whether the chain of causation has been broken regarding the defendant.  

This section begins by defining the concept of remoteness and then exploring in depth the various rules relating to the necessary foreseeability that have developed in the case law. The latter part of the section defines the various types of intervening act that may negate legal causation in a range of scenarios, including acts of third parties, the claimant and acts of nature.

Goals for this section:

  • To be able to understand and apply the rules relating to legal causation.

Objectives for this section:

  • To know that harm must not be too remote from the original negligence to be legally cause by it.
  • To understand how foreseeability relates to the remoteness of harm, and to know how the courts have defined the concept.
  • To be able to apply the rules relating to various types of intervening acts relating to legal causation.

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