Legal Defenses of Defective Causation & Intervening Cause
Military court-martial lawyers
The defense of accident is defined by R.C.M. 916(f).
Defective causation & intervening cause is when the accused is not criminally responsible for the loss/damage/injury if his or her act or omission was not a proximate cause.
The accused’s act may be “proximate”
The accused’s act may be “proximate” even if it is not the sole or latest cause. United States v. Moglia, 3 M.J. 216 (C.M.A. 1977). The court in United States v. Taylor, 44 M.J. 254 (C.A.A.F. 1996) held, the accused is entitled to present evidence of negligent medical care given by paramedics to drowning victim even if eventual death did not result solely from such negligent medical care. The court in United States v. Reveles, 41 M.J. 388 (C.A.A.F. 1995) held, possibility that victim’s death was caused by negligence of medical personnel subsequent to injury inflicted by accused was no defense because medical negligence did not loom so large that accused’s act was not a substantial factor in victim’s death.
The accused is not responsible unless his or her act plays a “major role” or “material role” in causing the loss/damage/injury. United States v. Moglia, 3 M.J. 216 (C.M.A. 1977) affirmed a manslaughter conviction where the accused’s act of selling heroin played “major role” in overdose death of buyer). United States v. Romero, 1 M.J. 227 (C.M.A. 1975) affirmed a manslaughter conviction where the accused’s act of assisting overdose victim in inserting syringe into vein played “material role” in victim’s death.
Legal Defenses Available in a Military Court-Martial
- Special Defenses & Other Defenses
- Accident Defense
- Defective causation & Intervening cause
- Duress or Coercion
- Inability and Impossibility
- Defense of another
- Necessity or Justification
- Mistaken belief, mistake of fact, or Ignorance
- Voluntary abandonment
- Statute of Limitations
- Former jeopardy – Double Jeopardy
- Miscellaneous Defenses
In a crime of negligent omission, the accused is not criminally responsible unless his or her omission was a “substantial factor,” among multiple causes, in producing the damage. The court in United States v. Day, 23 C.M.R. 651 (N.B.R. 1957) held, ship commander’s failure to keep engines in readiness held proximate cause of ship grounding in gale.
When applying the defense of intervening cause, the accused is not criminally responsible for the crime if the injury or death resulted from an independent, intervening cause, or if the accused did not participate in the intervening cause, and the intervening cause was not foreseeable.
The court in United States v. Houghten, 32 C.M.R. 3 (C.M.A. 1962) set forth an intervening cause test. The court stated that: “If it appears that the act of the accused was not the proximate cause of the death for which he is being prosecuted, but that another cause intervened, with which he was in no way connected and but for which death would not have occurred, such supervening cause is a good defense to the crime of homicide.”
Intervening cause must be “new and wholly independent” of the original act of the defendant. The court in United States v. Eddy, 26 C.M.R. 718 (A.B.R. 1958) held, to constitute an intervening cause to the offense of murder, medical maltreatment must be so grossly erroneous as to constitute a new and independent cause of death.
The intervening cause must not be foreseeable.
The court in United States v. Varraso, 21 M.J. 129 (C.M.A. 1985) held, the defense was not raised where accused helped victim hang herself by tying her hands behind her back and putting her head in the noose; any later acts by the victim to complete the hanging were foreseeable.
Intervening cause must intrude between the original wrongful act or omission and the injury and produce a result which would not otherwise have followed. United States v. King, 4 M.J. 785 (N.C.M.R. 1977), aff’d, 7 M.J. 207 (C.M.A. 1979). Defense offered evidence that the accused drove onto the shoulder of the road to avoid the oncoming victim and that, in attempting to negotiate the sunken shoulder to regain the road, the accused crossed over the center line and struck the victim’s vehicle. The court noted that intervening cause would have been present had a third vehicle been involved or had the accused offered evidence that one of the wheels of his vehicle dropped off or that an earth-slide forced him into the oncoming lane.
The court in Henderson v. Kibbe, 431 U.S. 145 (1977) held, abandoning intoxicated robbery victim on an abandoned rural road in a snowstorm established culpability for death of victim resulting from his being struck by a speeding truck).
In United States v. Riley, 58 M.J. 305 (C.A.A.F. 2003), an airman gave birth to a baby girl in the latrine of hospital. The baby died from blunt force trauma and left in the trashcan of the latrine. Appellant argued that the doctors’ failure to discover her pregnancy on three prior medical visits was an intervening cause in the baby’s death. CAAF disagreed, concluding that, at best, the negligence was a contributing cause. The doctors did not intervene between the birth of the baby and the ultimate death.
Legal Defense Of Intervening Cause
Plaintiffs could argue that the defendant should be held liable because the intervention replaced a reasonably foreseeable cause. In other words, the stars set out to enable the defendant to obtain a summary judgment to establish that the intervention supplanted the action when it was carried out to legally preclude recovery by the defendant. However, the case law rejects the intervening defense and states that the defendant must be liable for subsequent accidents caused by the original negligence.
This case is a clear example of a court refusing to accept the overarching and intervening defense and holding the accused responsible for consequential injuries caused by his original negligence. Relying on this jurisprudence creates a high hurdle for a defendant who, in such a case, seeks fast-track proceedings against an interfering or superior act.
Just because there is a cause does not mean that the defendant’s negligent conduct was not the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injury. If there is a cause and the defendant is still liable, the defendant may argue that the intermediate cause breaks the link between the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injury.
The existence of an intermediate cause means that the person who initiated the chain of events can no longer be held responsible for the damage to the injured person because the original act is no longer the immediate cause. In other words, the overarching reason for the intervening act is sufficient to transfer the blame for the damage in question from the accused to a third party or a natural event. For example, an intermediate cause exists if the defendant acted negligently before the plaintiff was injured, and the intermediate cause caused the plaintiff’s injury.
This can be seen in situations where the originally negligent behavior set in motion a chain of events that led to the plaintiff’s injury. The intervening cause interrupts the connection between the injury and the defendant’s action and destroys the claim of negligence. Therefore, the defendant shall avoid liability by proving that the subsequent acts or events of the intermediary cause were the true cause of the injury or loss of the person.
If someone intervenes and represents an overarching reason, the defendant is not liable for the damage. The intervention makes the occurrence of the behavior predictable, and the defendant is not exempt from liability.
In an action for negligence, the plaintiff must prove that someone else caused the damage. In addition, a negligence claim presupposes that the defendant’s actions caused the injury and that the injury was foreseeable. The defendant is not liable to the plaintiff if the injury is an overarching cause because the plaintiff cannot prove a cause.
In addition to determining that the defendant has violated his legal duty of care to a person, the Florida injury victims must prove that the defendant’s negligence was the actual or obvious cause of their injury. If an accident victim wishes to hold another party liable for his injury, he must prove that the accused’s negligence caused the injury to the victim. To be held liable for your injury, you must first prove that another person caused your injury.
Regardless of whether there was an incident, the negligent action of the defendants contributed to the injury of the plaintiffs. If an act is an unforeseeable cause of injury, the defendant shall not be liable for the damage suffered by the claimants. This doctrine applies even if the intervening act 1 is sufficient to intervene because the act that caused the injury was not foreseeable by the negligent actor and was not a normal reaction to the negligent behavior of the actors.
If a dependent intervening cause does not break the causal chain, then the accused act and the injury to the victim are not available as a defense. This means that the negligent or reckless conduct of the accused played a significant role in causing or causing the injury or loss of persons. If there were no causality between the actions or omissions of the defendants, the violation would not have occurred. This becomes, as our court has established, original negligence if the occurrence of an injury is caused by an intentional, malicious, or criminal act of a third person causing an injury that was not intended by the negligent person and could not have been anticipated by him and the causal chain is interrupted from the original negligence to the accident.
A separate act or omission which interrupts the direct connection between the act of the accused and the injury or loss of another person shall acquit the accused from liability for that injury. Criminal or human conduct against a third party shall not be considered an interfering ground that relieves the accused’s liability if the accused has negligently contributed to the loss of the victim. In jurisdictions where the intervening cause describes a cause that arose because the defendant’s conduct led to injury, the intervening cause relieves the defendant of liability (the so-called overarching cause).
An overarching cause is an independent event that occurs after an accident to protect a negligent party or defendant from liability. If an event occurs after an unforeseeable act by the accused, the cause of the injury occurs, which eliminates the liability of the accused of the act. Interfering or displacing causes occur when the actions of a third party or actions of another nature that play a role in causing the plaintiff’s injury to disrupt the so-called causal chain, reduce the defendant’s liability or extinguish it – the defendant – which means that intervening or displaced causes reduce or eliminate your ability to receive fair compensation for the harm caused by your injury.
An interfering act, also referred to as an overarching cause, is an act that exempts the original defendant from liability because the interfering act was foreseeable for the defendant. An intervening act by a third person does not replace the reformulation of an intervening concern. Still, the court may exempt the original actor from liability on the grounds of public policy.