Legal Memorandum: Proximate Cause Requirements in VT

Issue: Under Vermont law, does proximate cause require a causal connection between an act of a defendant and an ensuing injury?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Proximate cause; Causal connection
Jurisdiction: Vermont
Cited Cases: 328 A.2d 398; 147 Vt. 160; 514 A. 2d 694; 162 Vt. 628; 133 Vt. 11
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2012

Proximate cause requires a causal connection between the act for which defendant is responsible and the resulting flow of injurious consequences.  Rivers v. State, 133 Vt. 11, 328 A.2d 398, 400 (1974).  Under Vermont law it is clear that more than one tortious act, committed by different tortfeasors may each be a concurring proximate cause if each contributes to produce a harm.  Lavoie v. Pac. Press & Shear Co., 975 F.2d 48, 57 (2d Cir. 1992).  “Proximate cause is ordinarily an issue to be resolved by the jury unless the proof is so clear that reasonable minds cannot draw different conclusions or where all reasonable minds would construe the facts and circumstances one way.”  Roberts v. State, 147 Vt. 160, 163, 514 A. 2d 694, 696 (1986).  See Estate of Sumner v. Dep’t of Soc. & Rehab. Servs., 162 Vt. 628, 649 A.2d 1034, 1036 (1994).   

As stated in a leading treatise:

No person can be expected to guard against harm from events which are not reasonably to be anticipated at all, or are so unlikely to occur that the risk, although recognizable, would commonly be disregarded. . . . On the other hand, if the risk is an appreciable one, and the possible consequences are serious, the question is not one of mathematical probability alone. . . . As the gravity of the possible harm increases, the apparent likelihood of its occurrence need […]


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