Product Liability Civil Charges

5.40I – Proximate Cause


  1. In General
    The last requirement for holding a defendant liable is that the defect, whatever you find it to be, must have been a proximate cause of the accident. By proximate cause is meant that the defect in the product was a substantial factor which singly, or in combination with another cause, brought about the accident. Plaintiff need not prove that the very accident which occurred could have been anticipated so long as it was within the realm of foreseeability that some harm could result from the defect in question. If the product in question, however, does not add to the risk of the occurrence of the particular accident and hence was not a contributing factor in the happening of the accident, then plaintiff has failed to establish that a particular product defect was a proximate cause of the accident. 

    (An intervening cause is the act of an independent agency which destroys the causal connection between the effect of the defect in the product and the accident, the independent act being the immediate and sole cause in which case the liability will not be established because the defect in the product is not the proximate cause of the injury. However, the defendant would not be relieved from liability for its defective product by the intervention of acts of third persons, if those acts were reasonably foreseeable and hence there is a substantial causal connection between the product defect and the accident.)

  2. Limiting Instruction Where Comparative Negligence is not Applicable — Plaintiff’s Conduct May Only Be Considered on Issue of Proximate Cause
    You have heard evidence about how the plaintiff was using the product. When you are deciding whether the product was defective, you are not permitted to consider the plaintiff’s conduct. 

    If you find the product was defective, then you must decide whether the defect was a proximate cause of the accident. At this point, you may consider the plaintiff’s conduct.

    If you decide that the product defect was the only cause of the accident then you must find that that defect proximately caused the accident.

    If you decide that the product defect was a partial or contributory cause, then you must also find that the product defect was a proximate cause of the accident, even if the plaintiff’s conduct was also a partial or contributory cause.

    On the other hand, if you decide that the plaintiff’s conduct was the only cause, then you must find that the product defect was not a proximate cause of the accident.

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