Causation presents a very difficult task in some tort claims. Our central concern is to find a balance between the responsibility and fairness of each claim, which sometimes gets obscured by the difficulty in proving causation. Clearly, the case of Lynch v. Fisher represents the Law of Torts, and correspondingly etches out the subtle differences each action has on the outcome of all claims of causality. In the case of Lynch v. Fisher a truck driver, who is an employee of the defendants, Harry Fisher and Roger Wheless, parked a pulpwood truck on the right-hand side of a main highway.
The truck driver then proceeded to leave the area where he had negligently parked the truck. Shortly after, a passenger car, driven by the defendant, Robert Gunter, along with his wife in the passenger seat, violently collided with the parked truck and sent them into disarray. Robert Gunter was also held negligent for operating his car at an unlawful speed and not paying attention to the road.
A nearby good Samaritan and also plaintiff of the case, William Lynch, heard the collision and rushed to the scene to save Mr. Gunter and his wife. While pulling Mrs. Gunter out of the car which had just caught fire, he found a hand gun near the floor mat and proceeded to hand it to Mr. Gunter while attending to his wife. In complete delirium the defendant shot Lynch in the ankle causing serious damage. Upon these instances, the plaintiff has accordingly filed charges against the four defendants, Harry Fisher, Roger Wheless, their insurance company, Lumbermen's Mutual Casualty Company of Chicago, Ill. , and Robert Gunter for the damages caused to his ankle.
Finally, the court could see no break in events corresponding to the concurrent negligence of the parked truck and the collision to the injury of the plaintiff. According to Judge Hardy, three main issues are presented in this case that ought to determine the just outcome of the civil lawsuit at hand. One, "Did the original negligence of the driver of the parked truck set in motion a chain of circumstances following consecutively one upon the other which led to plaintiff's injury" (Adams 561)?
Two, "Was the act of original negligence superseded by an intervening act breaking the chain of causation leading to plaintiff's injury" (Adams 561)? And three, "Is the fact that plaintiff's injuries resulted from an improbable and unforeseeable incident sufficient to eliminate the original act of negligence from consideration as a proximate cause" (Adams 561)? These issues serve to highlight and determine a more precise philosophy of law by using our legal doctrines of proximate and intervening cause and foreseeability. Herein lies the connection between the truck driver's and Gunter's negligence to an issue of causation.
That is, does Lynch v. Fisher exhibit actions of negligence or strict liability and, if so, how can we philosophize a way to prove the causation of the incident given what we know about foreseeability and proximate cause? There are a couple different philosophical views that relate to causation. Among them, Hart and Honore describe consequences in terms of causes and conditions. For them, a deductive reasoning from the end results of an action can help trace and attribute the causes and conditions that are necessary to establish in all tort claims.
They base their distinction between causes and conditions in two ways. One, "To consequences no limit can be set" (Hart and Honore 569). And two, "Every event which would not have happened if an earlier event had not happened is the consequence of that earlier event" (Hart and Honore 569). These premises are important in their application to the causal effects of the trial set before us. The first premise they use is broader in the sense that it determines which events are relevant to the injury. It holds that the truck driver and Mr. Gunter are the limits within the causation of Mr.
Lynch's damaged ankle. No other event can be found to be the cause of the Plaintiff's damages. Furthermore, the second premise "defines consequence in terms of a 'necessary condition'" (Hart and Honore 569), rather than as a result of a number of other consequences. This is the meat of their separation of causes and conditions. For them, "an act is the cause of harm if it is both necessary to the occurrence of the harm and sufficient to produce it without the cooperation of the voluntary or deliberate acts of others or abnormal conjunction of events" (Adams 559).
In this case, the mentally deranged state of Mr. Gunter makes it difficult to conclude whom to attribute the liability of the Plaintiff's damaged ankle. However, under the circumstances that the truck driver negligently parked on the side of the road impeding following traffic, gives Hart and Honore reason to believe that the truck driver was a necessary condition of the result. It appears that without the truck parked there none of the following events would have occurred. But the fact that Gunter made no effort to avoid the collision sets up a new course of actions.
This is the case of the man who threw a cigarette into bracken and then, just as the flame was about to go out, another man, represented as Gunter, doused the bracken with gasoline to start a forest fire. Like the man who could have avoided using the gasoline, Gunter could have avoided the parked truck with proper attention of the road. In addition, the damage upon Lynch's ankle could not have happened without the use of Gunter's gun and impaired judgment of Gunter. Therefore, he must be the cause of the end result.
The facts that he was concealing a gun in his car and was in a state of delirium are yet other necessary conditions, ones that resulted from his careless collision. In contemporary philosophy of law, Judith Thomson would argue against Hart and Honore's assessment of causality. She believes that until recently, tort claims were hard to conclude because of the difficulty in proving causality. She notices that this notion also affected moral theory on causality and, as a response, she claimed a 'decline in cause' in both law and moral theory.