Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C.

What is 'proximate cause' in Connecticut premises liability?

This blog has been discussing the various elements of a negligence claim in Connecticut as they apply to premises liability cases over the past couple months. To review, to recover in negligence cases, a plaintiff generally must show that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, that the duty was breached, that there was an injury and that the breach was both the cause-in-fact and proximate cause of the injury. In this installment we will touch on the next, and probably most complex element of such cases: proximate cause.

A month ago we briefly talked about "direct cause" or "cause-in-fact." You may remember that this refers to whether the defendant's act or failure to act actually caused the injury to the plaintiff. Proximate cause is similar but differs in one important way: proximate cause deals with what events are foreseeable. What this means is that the cause of an injury cannot be so remote from the defendant's action or inaction that a reasonable person would not have foreseen the possibility.

Some examples may be useful for this concept. Let's say a Connecticut store owner knows that the threshold of his front door is uneven. A patron tripping over this threshold and suffering injury in a fall may be a foreseeable consequence of the property owner's failure to correct this hazard. On the other hand, a delivery hand-truck that is damaged navigating the threshold, and fails a week later, causing a heavy load to fall into a busy street, which creates a car accident in which a pedestrian on the sidewalk is injured, may not be considered to have been foreseeable by a reasonable person.

Of course, in many cases, the facts are somewhere in between these two extremes. Let's say a person trips over the threshold and knocks over a piece of furniture that falls and injures a third person. Is this a foreseeable consequence of the uneven threshold? It is questions like these that make proximate cause the more complicated part of a premises liability case. People with questions about how any of these issues might apply to their situation may wish to consider consulting an experienced Connecticut personal injury attorney, as this post provides general information only and cannot serve as the basis of a premises liability lawsuit.

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