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What Is a Superseding Cause in a Phoenix Personal Injury Case?

In Arizona personal injury cases, a defendant can be held liable for another’s injuries if the accident would not have occurred without the defendant’s negligent act. However, there are ways a defendant may try and escape liability. One such way is by arguing there was a superseding incident caused by another person that also contributed to the injury. A superseding cause is an intervening act that the law considers sufficient enough to override the initial negligence and exonerate that person from liability.

In a recent case discussing superseding causation, a state appellate court was recently tasked with determining whether a bar could be held liable for over-serving a man who later got into a car accident, even though he went home and took a nap before getting into the wreck. In many states, including Arizona, a bar can be held responsible for the actions of a patron after they have left the bar if they did not stop them from driving while intoxicated. The bar tried to argue that going home and taking a nap constituted a superseding cause, while the plaintiff, the person injured in the car accident, claimed that the bar was still at fault. The court ultimately ruled that going home was a superseding cause that relieved the bar of liability for the accident.

Superseding cause explained

A superseding cause intervenes between the defendant’s original act and the final result; it is also necessary in bringing about the injury. In Arizona, a superseding cause relieves the defendant of liability when it was unforeseeable. Even though the original negligence may have been a substantial factor in bringing about the injury, the original actor is not legally responsible if there is a superseding act.

The court decided that the bar could not be held liable in this instance. Although it was foreseeable that the bar patron could have caused an accident after leaving the bar while driving home initially, the bar could not have anticipated their patron intended to drive again later after going to bed. Once he was safely at his residence, the risk of the patron leaving and deciding to drive was no different than if he had become intoxicated at his house with alcohol purchased at a grocery store. Because such action was not foreseeable, the man’s decision to leave his home and drive was a superseding cause. Although the bar could not be held accountable, the plaintiff still has the ability to go after the man who caused the accident for compensation.

Arguing superseding cause is a way a defendant can try to escape liability for their wrongful actions. Because of this, and since superseding causation can often be a complicated topic, it is important to consult an experienced attorney who can help fight against such defenses.

Contact a Phoenix Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one have been involved in a Phoenix car crash, or any other preventable accident, contact the attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. We can assist you in determining your next steps and fight for the compensation you deserve. With years of experience, our dedicated attorneys will ensure the party responsible for the incident is held accountable. To schedule a free consultation and discuss your case, contact us at 602-819-5191 today.

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