Tort claims—causation in law
Produced in partnership with Laurence Page of Gatehouse Chambers

The following Dispute Resolution practice note produced in partnership with Laurence Page of Gatehouse Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Tort claims—causation in law
  • Effective cause of damage
  • Some natural event independent of any human agency
  • An act or omission by a third party
  • The claimant's intervening conduct
  • Two separate torts in succession
  • Remoteness of damage

Tort claims—causation in law

In most torts, where a defendant breaches their duty towards the claimant, they are only liable if the claimant can establish that the breach in question has resulted in some harm, ie causation.

Only strict liability torts are exempt from this rule (eg trespass to the person).

There are two elements to establishing causation in respect of tort claims, with the claimant required to demonstrate that:

  1. the defendant’s breach in fact resulted in the damage complained of (factual causation) and

  2. this damage should, as a matter of law, be recoverable from the defendant (legal causation)

The claimant has the burden of establishing each of the above two factors.

This Practice Note considers the legal element of the causation test.

For guidance on the issues relevant in determining whether or not there is factual causation, see Practice Note: Tort claims—causation as a matter of fact.

Where a claimant establishes that they have, in fact, suffered loss as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty, the courts are unwilling to provide a full indemnity to the claimant for the losses suffered save in cases of fraud.

This is achieved through two analyses:

  1. first, the court examines whether the tort is the effective cause of the eventual loss or whether there have been other, intervening, factors (effective cause)

  2. second, the court examines how far removed the damage suffered is

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