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Each separate antecedent of an event. Something that precedes and brings about an effect or a result. A reason for an action or condition. A ground of a legal action. An agent that brings something about. That which in some manner is accountable for a condition that brings about an effect or that produces a cause for the resultant action or state.

A suit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice.

Cause and Causality in American Law

If an individual is fired from a job at the bank for Embezzlement, he or she is fired for cause—as distinguished from decisions or actions considered to be Arbitrary or capricious.

In Criminal Procedure, Probable Cause is the reasonable basis for the belief that someone has committed a particular crime. Before someone may be arrested or searched by a police officer without a warrant, probable cause must exist. This requirement is imposed to protect people from unreasonable or unrestricted invasions or intrusions by the government.

In the law of torts, the concept of causality is essential to a person's ability to successfully bring an action for injury against another person. The injured party must establish that the other person brought about the alleged harm. A defendant's liability is contingent upon the connection between his or her conduct and the injury to the plaintiff. The plaintiff must prove that his or her injury would not have occurred but for the defendant's Negligence or intentional conduct.

Actual, Concurrent, and Intervening Cause

The actual cause is the event directly responsible for an injury. If one person shoves another, thereby knocking the other person out an open window and he or she breaks a leg as a result of the fall, the shove is the actual cause of the injury. The immediate cause of the injury in this case would be the fall, since it is the cause that came right before the injury, with no intermediate causes. In some cases the actual cause and the immediate cause of an injury may be the same.

Concurrent causes are events occurring simultaneously to produce a given result. They are contemporaneous, but either event alone would bring about the effect that occurs. If one person stabs another person who is simultaneously being shot by a third person, either act alone could cause the person's injury.

An Intervening Cause is one that interrupts the normal flow of events between the wrong and the injury. It comes between an expected sequence of occurrences to produce an unanticipated result. If someone driving under the influence of alcohol grazes a telephone pole that is rotted and thus knocks it down, the condition of the pole would be the intervening cause of its collapse. This is important in determining the liability of the intoxicated driver. If the telephone company knew or should have known about the unsafe condition of the pole and negligently failed to replace it, the telephone company would be responsible for the harm caused by the falling pole. Depending upon how hard the driver hit the pole, the driver may be held contributorily negligent, or partially liable, for the accident that took place.

An intervening efficient cause is one that totally supersedes the original wrongful act or omission. For example, an intoxicated cabdriver transports a person in a cab with faulty brakes. An accident occurs, which is a direct result of the intoxication rather than the faulty brakes. The injury resulting to the passenger is attributable to the driver's condition. The intervening efficient cause thereby broke the causal connection between the original wrong of the faulty brakes and the injury.

Proximate, Unforeseeable, and Remote Cause

The proximate cause of an injury is the act or omission of an act without which the harm would not have occurred. This is a concept in the law of torts and involves the question of whether a defendant's conduct is so significant as to make him or her liable for a resulting injury. For example, a person throws a lighted match into a wastepaper basket that starts a fire that burns down a building. The wind carries the flames to the building next door. The act of throwing the match would be the proximate cause of the fire and the resulting damage; however, the person may not be held fully liable for all resulting consequences.

An unforeseeable cause is one that unexpectedly and unpredictably results from the proximate cause. The degree of injury sustained is unanticipated or far removed from the negligent or intentional conduct that took place. For example, if a customer in a supermarket irritates a clerk and the clerk pushes the customer out of the way, which results in prolonged bleeding because the person is a hemophiliac, the bleeding is an unforeseeable consequence of the clerk's action. Even if the clerk intentionally pushed the customer, the resulting injury is clearly far removed from the conduct.

A remote cause is one that is removed or separate from the proximate cause of an injury. If the injuries suffered by a person admitted to a hospital after being hit by a truck are aggravated by Malpractice, the malpractice is a remote cause of injury to that person. The fact that the cause of an injury is remote does not relieve a defendant of liability for the act or omission, but there may be an Apportionment of liability between the defendants.


Action; Arbitrary; Arrest; "But For" Rule; Criminal Procedure; Probable Cause; Search and Seizure; Tort Law; Warrant.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


from Latin causa: 1) v. to make something happen. 2) n. the reason something happens. A cause implies what is called a "causal connection" as distinguished from events which may occur but do not have any effect on later events. Example: While driving his convertible, Johnny Youngblood begins to stare at pretty Sally Golightly who is standing on the sidewalk. While so distracted he veers into a car parked at the curb. Johnny's inattention (negligence) is the cause of the accident, and neither Sally nor her beauty is the cause. 3) n. short for cause of action.

(See: cause of action, proximate cause)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


1 a ground for legal action or a matter giving rise to an action, case or lawsuit; it may refer to the action, case or lawsuit itself
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

CAUSE, civ. law. This word has two meanings. 1. It signifies the delivery of the thing, or the accomplishment of the act which is the object of a convention. Datio vel factum, quibus ab una parte conventio, impleri caepta est. 6 Toull. n. 13, 166. 2. it is the consideration or motive for making a contract. An obligation without a cause, or with a false or unlawful cause, has no effect; but an engagement is not the less valid, though the cause be not expressed. The cause is illicit, when it is forbidden by law, when it is contra bones mores, or public order. Dig. 2, 14, 7, 4; Civ. Code of Lo. a. 1887-1894 Code Civil, liv. 3, c. 2, s. 4, art. 1131-1133; Toull. liv. 3, tit. 3, c. 2, s. 4.

CAUSE, contra torts, crim. That which produces an effect.
     2. In considering a contract, an injury, or a crime, the law for many purposes looks to the immediate, and not to any remote cause. Bac. Max. Reg. 1; Bac. Ab. Damages, E; Sid. 433; 2 Taunt. 314. If the cause be lawful, the party will be justified; if unlawful, he will be condemned. The following is an example in criminal law of an immediate and remote cause. If Peter, of malice prepense, should discharge a pistol at Paul, and miss him, and then cast away the pistol and fly and, being pursued by Paul, he turn round, and kill him with a dagger, the law considers the first as the impulsive cause, and Peter would be guilty of murder. But if Peter, with his dagger drawn, had fallen down, and Paul in his haste had fallen upon it and killed himself, the cause of Paul's death would have been too remote to charge Peter as the murderer. Id.
     3. In cases of insurance, the general rule is that the immediate and not the remote cause of the loss is to be considered; causa proximo non remota spedatur. This rule may, in some cases, apply to carriers. Story, Bailm. Sec. 515.
     4. For the reach of contracts, the contractor is liable for the immediate effects of such breach, but not for any remote cause, as the failure of a party who was to receive money, and did not receive it, in consequence of which he was compelled to stop payment. 1 Brock. Cir. C. Rep. 103. See Remote; and also Domat, liv. 3, t. 5, s. 2, n. 4; Toull. liv. 3, n. 286; 6 Bing. R. 716; 6 Ves. 496; Pal. Ag. by Lloyd, 10; Story, Ag. Sec. 200; 3 Sumn. R. 38.

CAUSE, pleading.The reason; the motive.
     2. In a replication de injuria, for example, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant of his own wrong, and without the cause by him in his plea alleged, did, &c. The word cause here means without the matter of excuse alleged, and though in the singular number, it puts in issue all the facts in the plea, which constitute but one cause. 8 Co. 67; 11 East, 451; 1 Chit. Pl. 585.

CAUSE, practice. A Contested question before a court of justice; it is a Suit or action. Causes are civil or criminal. Wood's Civ. Law, 302; Code, 2, 416.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
Patients with suspicious symptoms, signs, and laboratory examinations were suggested for further evaluation of secondary causes of hypertension, with particular attention given to the following: the age < 30 years at onset of hypertension, resistant hypertension, severe hypertension or hypertensive emergencies, sudden increase of BP in a previously stable patient, accelerated hypertension, severe target organ damage not matched for the duration of high BP, hypertension with adrenal incidentaloma, exaggerated diurnal sleepiness, nocturnal snoring, paroxysmal hypertension, hematuria, proteinuria, increased serum creatinine, hypokalemia, an abdominal bruit, particularly when diastolic, differences of >1.5 cm in the length between the two kidneys via renal ultrasound, and so forth [8].
The guidelines list nine other potential secondary causes of osteoporosis that should be evaluated in people with HIV: vitamin D deficiency, hyperparathyroidism, subclinical hyperthyroidism, Cushing syndrome, phosphate wasting, idiopathic hypercalcuria, celiac sprue, multiple myeloma, and mastocytosis (guidelines Table 5 (1)).
In my view, Aquinas's thought is indispensable in the dialogue between science and theology, with his concept of primary and secondary causality and his view of God's profound respect for secondary causes. But what if God works through secondary causes even in the case of many of the events in the Gospels and in our lives that we rightly see as miracles, as marvelous gifts of God?
Although not noted to have a specific ICD-10 code, the term 'Frailty' was nevertheless noted to have been documented as contributory to the primary or secondary cause of death in a total of 12 cases, with 2 entries on the ASU and 10 entries on acute MoE wards.
In a retrospective analysis of 141 patients with resistant hypertension referred to a university hypertension center in Chicago in 2005, 5% of patients had an identifiable secondary cause. (9) A chart review of 436 patients presenting to a tertiary hypertension clinic in Japan identified 91 with resistant hypertension.
According to the International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd ed., headaches are divided into those with primary and those with secondary causes. Primary headaches occur independently of any other medical condition, while secondary headaches are directly attributed to an underlying medical cause.
Identifying main and secondary causes and their formalization must fulfill the same conditions as the problem identification and formalization, plus the following:
A final argument, which Suarez calls a priori, contends that it is consonant with a creature's perfection that it have an active power as a secondary cause: "There is no contradiction in created things having the power of acting; on the contrary it is very consistent with their perfection.
* If LDL cholesterol is persistently above goal, evaluate for secondary causes with thyroid-stimulating hormone testing, liver function tests, renal function tests, and urinalysis.
If you suspect a secondary cause of osteoporosis, be prepared to perform a basic workup that includes:
More often in men than in women, a secondary cause may underlie osteopenia: low testosterone, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, chronic liver disease, excessive calcium excretion, and digestive disorders such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
Although Aquinas maintained that God and the secondary cause (in dependence on and complete subordination to God) is each, in its own order, a total cause of the effect, God, as the primary source of being and form, is more causally intimate in a created thing than any secondary cause.