Virginia Supreme Court Issues Important Causation Opinion

Posted on January 13, 2013 | Filed under: Blog

Where a plaintiff sustains an injury and two potential causes of the injury exist, either of which would have been sufficient to produce the injury, a defendant responsible for one of the potential causes can be deemed liable for the injury according to the Supreme Court of Virginia.  In Ford Motor Company v. Boomer, Adm’r., decided on January 10, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled a manufacturer of an asbestos containing product could be held liable for asbestos induced disease in a person who had experienced multiple exposures to asbestos from other sources each of which was sufficient to cause the disease.

Ford Motor Company v. Boomer, Adm’r. lays out important principles of proximate cause impacting on any tortious injury or wrongful death case governed by the law of Virginia.   The Court noted that the present Virginia Model Jury Instructions fail to adequately articulate the legal precepts governing multiple potential cause scenarios.

The following points should be borne in mind in tort litigation involving an injury with more than one potential cause:

  • A plaintiff need not prove a negligent party’s acts or commissions caused the injury but merely that the defendant’s conduct was sufficient to have caused the injury.
  • It is not necessary for the multiple potential causes to have occurred simultaneously.
  • The factfinder will determine whether the conduct of a defendant was more likely than not sufficient to have caused the injury.
  • The rules enunciated in Ford Motor Company v. Boomer, Adm’r. apply to any multiple potential cause scenario whether or not the alternative potential causes are tortious or innocent in nature.