WPI155.06Proximate Cause—Allowed Claim
6A WAPRAC WPI 155.06Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
6A Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 155.06 (7th ed.)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
July 2019 Update
Part XI. Workers' Compensation
Chapter 155. Workers' Compensation
WPI 155.06 Proximate Cause—Allowed Claim
The term “proximate cause” means a cause which in a direct sequence [, unbroken by any new independent cause,] produces the [condition] [disability] [death] complained of and without which such [condition] [disability] [death] would not have happened.
[There may be one or more proximate causes of a [condition] [disability] [death]. For a worker to recover benefits under the Industrial Insurance Act, the [industrial injury] [occupational disease] must be a proximate cause of the alleged [condition] [and] [disability] [death] for which benefits are sought. The law does not require that the [industrial injury] [occupational disease] be the sole proximate cause of such [condition] [disability] [death].]
NOTE ON USE
Use this definition of proximate cause when defining proximate cause in a case involving an allowed claim. For an alternative wording of this instruction, see WPI 155.06.02 (Proximate Cause—Allowed Claim—Alternative).
Use WPI 155.06.01 (Proximate Cause—Rejected Claim) or its alternative instruction (WPI 155.06.03) when defining proximate cause in a case involving a rejected claim.
Use bracketed material as applicable. Use the bracketed second paragraph if the evidence presents an issue of multiple causes. See the Comment below. Use the bracketed word “and” in the second sentence of the second paragraph if there is a claim for both an alleged condition and a disability. If the claim is by a surviving spouse or other beneficiary, the term “worker” should be appropriately changed.
Multiple proximate causes. In Wendt v. Department of Labor and Industries, 18 Wn.App. 674, 571 P.2d 229 (1977), the court held that it is error not to give an instruction on multiple proximate causes when there is evidence to support a theory that the disability resulted from the combined effects of the industrial injury and other unrelated conditions.
The court in City of Bremerton v. Shreeve, 55 Wn.App. 334, 777 P.2d 568 (1989), held that the trial court did not err in giving an instruction adapted from WPI 155.06 that set forth a “multiple proximate cause theory” in an occupational disease case. However, the court cautioned that it is “preferable” to avoid the use of multiple proximate cause instructions in occupational disease cases when possible. The court stated these instructions could be misleading to a jury confronted with a disability to which several preexisting medical conditions have contributed, but which conditions did not arise out of the claimant's employment. City of Bremerton v. Shreeve, 55 Wn.App. at 340–41. The court stated that it believed:
[I]t would be better practice to present instructions which, after defining proximate cause as set forth in the first paragraph of WPI 155.06, convey the idea that the worker is to be taken as he or she is, and a preexisting condition should not be considered a “cause” of the injury, but merely a condition upon which the “proximate cause” operated.
City of Bremerton v. Shreeve, 55 Wn.App. at 341.
Notwithstanding the statement in Shreeve discouraging the use of multiple proximate cause instructions in occupational disease cases, it is advisable to give the second paragraph of WPI 155.06 if the evidence presents an issue of multiple causes. Under Wendt it is probably reversible error if this paragraph is not given, while under Shreeve it is not error if it is given.
In Dennis v. Department of Labor and Industries, 109 Wn.2d 467, 745 P.2d 1295 (1987), the Supreme Court sought to clarify the statutory requirement that the occupational disease arise “naturally and proximately” out of the employment. Noting that an occupational disease must arise both “naturally” and “proximately” out of employment, the court stated that the term “naturally” must be construed in its ordinary sense and must be tied to the “arising out of employment” language in RCW 51.08.140. The court further stated:
We hold that a worker must establish that his or her occupational disease came about as a matter of course as a natural consequence or incident of distinctive conditions of his or her particular employment. The conditions need not be peculiar to, nor unique to, the worker's particular employment. Moreover, the focus is upon conditions giving rise to the occupational disease, or the disease-based disability resulting from work-related aggravation of a nonwork-related disease, and not upon whether the disease itself is common to that particular employment. The worker, in attempting to satisfy the “naturally” requirement, must show that his or her particular work conditions more probably caused his or her disease or disease-based disability than conditions in everyday life or all employments in general; the disease or disease-based disability must be a natural incident of conditions of that worker's particular employment. Finally, the conditions causing the disease or disease-based disability must be conditions of employment, that is, conditions of the worker's particular occupation as opposed to conditions coincidentally occurring in his or her workplace.
Dennis v. Department of Labor and Industries, 109 Wn.2d at 481, 745 P.2d at 1303 (emphasis in original). See also Favor v. Department of Labor and Industries, 53 Wn.2d 698, 336 P.2d 382 (1959); McClelland v. ITT Rayonier, Inc., 65 Wn.App. 386, 828 P.2d 1138 (1992).
Lighting-up. In McDonagh v. Department of Labor & Industries, 68 Wn.App. 749, 845 P.2d 1030 (1993), the court held that a proximate cause instruction does not serve the same purpose as a “lighting-up” instruction, and that it is reversible error not to give an instruction on a claimant's “lighting-up” theory if it is raised as an issue and there is substantial evidence to support it. Usually, “lighting-up” arises in the context of rating or treating disability. However, the McDonagh case discusses “lighting-up” in the context of a rejected claim.
A pattern instruction for lighting-up cases can be found at WPI 155.20 (Lighting Up of Pre-existing, Asymptomatic Condition).
[Current as of November 2016.]
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