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AMI 503 Intervening Proximate Cause—Definition and Effect—Burden of Proof

Arkansas Supreme Court Committee On Jury Instructions-Civil

Ark. Model Jury Instr., Civil AMI 503
Arkansas Model Jury Instructions-Civil
December 2023 Update
Arkansas Supreme Court Committee On Jury Instructions-Civil
Chapter 5. Proximate Cause
AMI 503 Intervening Proximate Cause—Definition and Effect—Burden of Proof
(Defendant) contends and has the burden of proving that following any act or omission on [his][her][its] part an event intervened that in itself caused damage completely independent of [his][her][its] conduct. If you so find, then (defendant's) act or omission was not a proximate cause of any damage resulting from the intervening event.
[The fact that other cause(s) intervened between any act or omission on the part of (defendant), and the damage for which claim is made, would not relieve (defendant) of liability if the damage is reasonably foreseeable as a natural and probable result of any act or omission on the part of (defendant).]
This instruction should be given when there is evidence of efficient intervening cause.
Use the second paragraph when there is evidence that the damage was a reasonably foreseeable, natural, and probable result of the original conduct.
This instruction was approved as a correct statement of law in Benson v. Temple Inland Forest Products Corp., 328 Ark. 214, 942 S.W.2d 252 (1997).
It was proper to give this instruction when there was a question of fact as to whether the act of another driver causing damage was an intervening act independent of the act or omission of the defendant driver. If so, then the act or omission of the defendant was not a proximate cause of damage to the plaintiff. Boyd v. Reddick, 264 Ark. 671, 573 S.W.2d 634 (1978). Separate wrongs done by an independent agent can be an intervening proximate cause and cannot be joined together to increase the responsibility of another wrongdoer, as a party is liable only to the extent to which that party' own acts have caused injury. Bill C. Harris Const. Co. Inc. v. Powers, 262 Ark. 96, 554 S.W.2d 332 (1977). In order to have sufficient evidence to support a finding of proximate cause it is not necessary that circumstantial evidence exclude a concurring efficient proximate cause as distinguished from a totally independent and unrelated cause. St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co. v. Pennington, 261 Ark. 650, 553 S.W.2d 436 (1977).
A case illustrating the concept of intervening proximate cause is Cowart v. Casey Jones Contractor, Inc., 250 Ark. 881, 467 S.W.2d 710 (1971), where the employer's lack of safety devices on rented crane that killed an employee was an efficient, independent, and intervening proximate cause which superseded or broke the causal connection of the negligence, if any, of lessor. In Hill v. Wilson, 216 Ark. 179, 224 S.W.2d 797 (1949), however, the court found that when the intervening act of a person is in the form of a normal response to the stimulus of a situation created by a defendant's negligent conduct, it is not a superseding cause of harm to another when the defendant's conduct is a substantial factor in bringing about such harm. Likewise, in Rhoads v. Service Machine Co., 329 F. Supp. 367 (E.D. Ark. 1971), if the intervening cause is foreseeable to the original actor or where his conduct substantially increases the likelihood of the intervening cause occurring, the original negligent conduct is still a “proximate cause” of the injury and the original actor remains liable. In Belz–Burrows, L.P. v. Cameron Const. Co., 78 Ark. App. 84, 78 S.W.3d 126 (2002), the court reaffirmed the rule that the defendant has the burden of proving that, following any act or omission, an event intervened that in itself caused damage completely independent of his or her conduct. For an excellent historical perspective of intervening causes and tort law in Arkansas, see Comment, 1 Ark.L.Rev. 148 (1947).
For an instructive discussion of when a subsequent cause is not an intervening cause, see Hill, supra. The fact that other causes intervene between original act of negligence and injury for which recovery is sought is not sufficient to relieve original actor of liability if injury is a natural and probable consequence of the original negligent act or omission and was reasonably foreseeable. Stecker v. First Commercial Trust Co., 331 Ark. 452, 962 S.W.2d 792 (1998); see also Burns v. Boot Scooters, Inc., 61 Ark. App. 124, 965 S.W.2d 798 (1998).
In some instances, the issue of intervening proximate causation may be a question of law. Wilson v. Evans, 284 Ark. 101, 679 S.W.2d 205 (1984). However, it is usually a question of fact where the jury must decide if the plaintiff's injury would not have occurred except for the act of the intervening agent totally independent of acts constituting the primary negligence. Larson Mach., Inc. v. Wallace, 268 Ark. 192, 600 S.W.2d 1 (1980). In Carroll Elec. Coop. Corp. v. Carlton, 319 Ark. 555, 892 S.W.2d 496 (1995), overruled on other grounds by Hartford Fire Ins. Co. v. Sauer, 358 Ark. 89, 186 S.W.3d 229 (2004), this instruction was held to have been properly given when a fire occurred in a home 14 or 15 hours after electricity had been shut off immediately following a utility pole accident, and the jury could have found that no further damage would have occurred had the power been properly restored.
The concept of intervening cause is not applicable to an intentional tort case. City Nat. Bank of Fort Smith v. Goodwin, 301 Ark. 182, 783 S.W.2d 335 (1990).
End of Document