To bring a successful claim for negligence, a plaintiff must prove the following elements: the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to exercise reasonable care; the defendant breached the duty of care; the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of injury to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff suffered damages for which he/she is entitled to compensation.
When determining if the requirement that the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of injury to the plaintiff has been met, the finder of fact will examine two types of causation. The first part of the test for causation is known as “cause-in-fact” or “but-for” causation. The second part of this test is known as “proximate cause”.
Proximate (sometimes referred to as ‘legal’) cause generally refers to an element of foreseeability. Not only must a plaintiff show that he or she would not have been injured without—or, but for—the defendant’s actions, but the defendant’s action (or failure to act) must have caused harm that was to some extent foreseeable.