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Chain of Causation

Proximate Cause

Last updated: 28-Nov-2015

Per Lord Wright in Monarch Steamship Company Ltd v A/B Karlshamns Oljefabriker [1949] 1 All ER 1 at p.16:

It is said that the relation of cause and effect cannot be postulated here between the unseaworthiness and the restraints of princes or the delay. … As I have pointed out, if the vessel had arrived at Karlshamn in July she could not have been exposed to the risk of the restraint of princes, but she did not arrive until October, and thereby (in the historic phrase) "missed the bus." If a man is too late to catch a train because his car broke down on the way to the station, we should all naturally say that he lost the train because of the car breaking down. We recognise that the two things or events are causally connected. Causation is a mental concept, generally based on inference or induction from uniformity of sequence as between two events that there is a causal connection between them. This is the customary result of an education which starts with our earliest experience. The burnt child dreads the fire.

Per Devlin J in Heskell v Continental Express Ltd [1950] 1 All ER 1033 at p.1048:

It may be that the term "a cause" is, whether in tort or in contract, not rightly used as a term of legal significance unless it denotes a cause of equal efficacy with one or more other causes. Whatever the true rule of causation may be I am satisfied that if a breach of contract is one of two causes, both co-operating and both of equal efficacy, as I find in this case, it is sufficient to carry judgment for damages.

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