A more recent version of these Novus Actus Interveniens notes – written by Oxford students – is available here.
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How to avoid being held as a "causer" - novus actus interveniens Introduction
In certain cases, law will hold that that where on act follows another o The "new intervening act" will be held to be regarded as the true cause of the damage
? Because it has broken the "chain of responsibility" (Stapleton) How third parties can break the chain of responsibility
Natural/instinctive intervention o When intervention made in "heat of the moment" then does not break chain of responsibility
? E.g. X throws lit firework into market, A throws it to B, B throws it to C, who is hit and injured
Held that X is responsible, acts of A and B do not break the chain of responsibility.
X liable for C's injury.
Negligent Intervention o The intervention has to be so powerful that it obliterates the other's tort
? Knightly v Johns : D was involved in a serious road accident at the end of the tunnel. P, in charge of the scene, forgot to close the entrance of the tunnel, so ordered C to ride down the tunnel, against the traffic, to close it. C obeyed, despite the order and following it being a breach of police standing orders, and C was hit and injured by an incoming car.
Stephenson LJ o Clearly wanton acts will break the chain of causation and reasonable ones will not
? But there are plenty of acts inbetween o The question to be asked is whether the whole sequence of events is the natural and probable consequence of D's negligence
? Subsequent negligent conduct is more likely to break the chain of causation than conduct which is not
Positive acts are more likely to be new causes than omissions o Common sense has to decide these questions
? Here, too much happened, too much went wrong, the chapter of accidents, was here too long and varied
While some errors might be expected when arriving at an accident scene, o so many errors and departures from common sense
? made the ordinary course of events become extraordinary o Rescuers/Medics
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