California Law eUpdate – Intervening Cause

California Law eUpdate – Intervening Cause

May 10, 2018.  Intervening cause is when a defendant can only be held liable for injuring the plaintiff if the defendant’s negligence caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries. If a separate act breaks the direct link between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injury or loss, then the court may relieve the defendant of any liability for the injury or loss, only if evidence proves the disconnection, or an intervening cause, or the real cause of injury.

Below is the recent analysis of a California court decision that was reported in March 2018.  Information courtesy of Scott Buchholz, Esquire, Dummit, Buchholz, & Trapp.

(Intervening Cause) Intervening conduct by a third party that is not a likely hazard which causes injury is unforeseeable under ‘Rowland’.  Travis Sakai v. Massco Investments, LLC (No. B279275 California Courts of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division One, filed March 1, 2018)

The Plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence and premises liability after he was struck and then dragged by a vehicle exiting the defendant’s parking lot.  The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant on the ground that there was “no foreseeability and no duty”.  On appeal, the plaintiff argued the trial court erred because the accident was reasonably foreseeable.  The appeals court disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

The Plaintiff had claimed that the defendant leased its parking lot out to a taco truck vendor.  The plaintiff wanted to buy food from the taco vendor and was involved in an accident in the parking lot of the gas station.  He was struck by a vehicle exiting the parking lot in an incautious way and was seriously injured.  The appeals court found that the conduct of the driver (who struck the plaintiff) was not foreseeable or derivative of the defendant’s conduct in designing, leasing or operating the parking lot.  Therefore, the appeals court declined to find the owner was responsible for the harm to the plaintiff as a matter of policy.