chapter  8
Intervening Negligent Acts and Omissions
Pages 12

As we have seen in Chapter 5, the common law’s ‘last human wrongdoer’ doctrine once created an immunity for negligent defendants when the immediate cause of the plaintiff’s injury was the intervening culpable act of a third party. As the force of the doctrine waned, this immunity was gradually lost. Defendants became increasingly liable for the criminal and deliberate acts of third parties1 as well as for the negligent intervening conduct of plaintiffs and third parties. Nevertheless there is no absolute rule nowadays that all negligent intervening forces will or will not sever the causal chain. Such determination will turn on the facts and circumstances of each case. As contributory negligence, contribution and indemnity statutes have empowered the courts to allocate losses between tortfeasors and between the tortfeasor and the plaintiff, the last human wrongdoer doctrine has been displaced, thereby permitting judges to achieve a more equitable apportionment of damages. In the realm of intervening negligence, defendants now carry much more legal responsibility for its effects. This chapter will briefly examine a representative sampling of intervening negligence cases, as well as consider the effect of gross negligence or recklessness and negligent intervening omissions on the outcome of novus actus pleas. The majority of cases will involve intervening causation issues which arise out of motor vehicle accidents.