Vermont Civil Jury Instruction Committee

Plain English Jury Instructions

Section 4.††††††† Causation


Table of Contents

4.0†††††† Proximate Cause

4.1†††††† Limits of Causation

4.2†††††† Break in Causation



4.0†††† Proximate Cause

You must decide if the [accident and/or plaintiffís injuries] was actually caused by [something name of defendant did or failed to do].


Alternate (1):††† That is to say, if [name of defendant] had not been negligent, then [name of plaintiff] would not have been hurt.

Alternate (2):††† That is, without the negligence would [name of plaintiff] have been injured?

Alternate (3):††† That is, without the negligence, would the accident have happened?

Alternate (4):††† In other words, had [name of defendant] not [made left turn, set off firecracker, pushed the lady onto the train car, etc.] the [accident/injury] would not have happened.


[Name of defendant] may be liable even if there were other causes for the [accident/plaintiffís injuries,] but [name of defendant] is only liable if the [name of plaintiffís [accident, injuries]] would not have occurred but for [name of defendantís] fault.

Reporterís Notes

Lavoie v. Pacific Press & Shear Co., 975 F.2d 48 (2d Cir. 1992); Tufts v. Wyand, 148 Vt. 528 (1987).


4.1†††† Limits of Causation

A negligent act may cause injury for some time. There is no specific time limit.The defendant is responsible for all the results of his negligence until the forces that his negligent act set in motion no longer have any effect.But if the injury is too distant or unrelated to have been caused by the negligence, because the force of the original event has ended, the defendant is not liable.


Reporterís Notes

Rivers v. State, 133 Vt. 11 (1974).


4.2†††† Break in Causation

In this case, the defendant maintains that the plaintiff's injury was not caused by [his/her] original negligent act, but by a later event. You must therefore ask yourselves two questions.First, were the plaintiffís injuries caused by the defendantís original negligence?In other words, the effects of the defendantís original negligence must not have been so weakened that [describe the action or failure to act alleged as the breach of duty] must be considered the cause. Next, was the later event something that the defendant could not have anticipated?If you decide that the answer to both these questions is yes, then the defendant is not responsible for events occurring after the later event.


Reporterís Notes

Beatty v. Dunn, 103 Vt. 340 (1931); Paton v. Sawyer, 134 Vt. 598 (1976).