In any personal injury lawsuit, success is not simply proving defendant committed some act of negligence. It’s not just proving you suffered injury. It’s about linking the two in a way that shows causation.
In law, this is known as proximate cause. It’s when an event is sufficiently related to a legally recognizable injury to be held as the cause. Attorneys may also examine the “cause-in-fact” element, which is weighed by the “but for” test. That is, “but for” the alleged negligence, the injury would not have occurred.
Even in cases where the facts seem relatively straightforward, it’s important to have an experienced legal team that can help you present all the evidence in a way that meets the proximate cause criteria.
Our Rock Hill truck accident lawyers understand the issue of causation was what snagged the plaintiffs in the recent case of Bolding v. Kindel Concrete. Although this was a case before the Wyoming Supreme Court, the same general legal principles apply.
Here, plaintiff was rear-ended by a concrete truck driver in 2009. Two years later, plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the driver for negligence and against the driver’s employer for negligent entrustment.
(Negligent entrustment is when one party negligently provided another with a dangerous instrumentality – here, a truck – and the entrusted individual caused injury to plaintiff with that instrumentality. An alternative theory of liability in truck crashes is vicarious liability, wherein the employer is responsible not because he or she necessarily acted with negligence, but by virtue of “respondeat superior,” which holds vehicle owners and/or employers responsible for injuries caused with their property/by their employees.)
In this case, defendant trucking company didn’t respond in a timely manner to the litigation, and a default hearing was held. Plaintiff sought default judgment, but defendant appeared and argued against this. At the hearing, a judge was asked to weigh plaintiff’s evidence in deciding whether to grant a default judgment.
Plaintiff testified on her own behalf regarding the crash and resulting injuries. Additionally, a deposition from her physical therapist was submitted.
But that was it.
The court ruled plaintiff failed to prove causation and damages by a preponderance of the evidence, and denied default judgment in her favor. Her lawsuit was dismissed.
Upon review, the Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed. The judicial panel noted it was plaintiff’s burden to show defendant was in default, and also to produce evidence sufficient to support her request for damages and to establish a percentage of the fault attributable to the firm.
However, her attorney was reportedly not clear on how to proceed at this hearing, and the court indicated it would not provide guidance on how he should present the case. He attempted to submit a stack of documents. However, defense objected because it hadn’t had a chance to review. Objection was sustained, and that led to the submission of only a physical therapist report and plaintiff’s own testimony.
She requested $340,000 in damages and apportioned 50 percent fault to defendant, but offered no evidence to support these assertions.
In the end, it was undisputed she was rear-ended by a truck driver. It was undisputed that driver worked for defendant. It was also not disputed that she suffered injury. But the causation element was missing, and without that, justices ruled, she could not collect damages.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Bolding v. Kindel Concrete, Oct. 27, 2014, Wyoming Supreme Court
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As NC Senate Candidate Urges Tort Reform, A 1978 Lawsuit Resurfaces, Oct. 29, 2014, Rock Hill Car Accident Lawyer Blog