While these two elements constitute "negligence" in the abstract, to be
actionable, however, you also need the next two:
Actual injury to interests of another.
(d) Causal connection between the breach of duty and the injury.
An easy way to remember this is to think of the four" D's of negligence: Duty,
Deviation, Damage, Direct causation.
(5) Proximate causation vs. intervening cause. Proximate causation simply
means that the defendant is responsible for those results that are reasonably
foreseeable. To use an example, suppose I run someone over with my car late at night
and leave him lying in the middle of the road. Is it reasonably foreseeable that another
car will come along and hit him, injuring him further? If the answer is "yes," then I am
responsible for all of the resulting injuries (since, after all, it is all my fault). If the answer
is "no," then the results are not reasonably foreseeable, and I would not be responsible
for those subsequent results.
(6) Kinds of facts. Under what sort of facts, then, might I not be responsible
for the defendant's further injuries? Suppose an ambulance comes by and picks up the
injured person, taking him to the hospital. What if, on the way to the hospital, the driver
loses control of the ambulance and runs into a phone pole or tree, causing the patient to
be thrown from the ambulance, which breaks both of his arms--was THAT, my fault?
The issue is whether or not this sequence of events was reasonably foreseeable. Take
it a step further--what if the patient is taken to the hospital and while there, falls off of the
operating table because nobody put up the side rails or watched over the patient--was
that my fault? Suppose the patient is injured when the physician commits an act of
(7) Important concept. The concept to grasp here is that the defendant is
legally liable for those results that were reasonably foreseeable. That doesn't mean
every outcome, no matter how remote or unlikely. Indeed, there has to be a common
sense limit here, or someone would sue someone's parents on the theory that it's their
fault (if they didn't have children, the children wouldn't have caused the car accident 16
(8) Common defenses to tort liability. Common defenses are contributory
negligence and assumption of the risk. An example of contributory negligence on the
part of a patient would be failing to follow the doctor's instructions (lose weight, don't
smoke, don't climb stairs, and so forth), or not being candid when providing history and
symptoms. An example of assumption of risk would be, despite informed consent, the
patient electing to have the surgery anyway, knowing of the hazards involved. Another
example would be refusing medical treatment, even when your doctor tells you it may
result in your death.