P was working on a gas main as a subcontractor for D. The worksite was a big hole in the middle of the street.
Dickens suffered an epileptic seizure and lost consciousness while driving by the work zone and crashed into the work site. P was injured when he was thrown in the air and 400 degree molten enamel splashed on him. He survived even after his body ignited.
P claimed that D was negligent in ensuring a safe work environment since there was no barrier around the excavation.
Trial court found for P.
NY COA affirmed.
When do superseding causes cut off the causal connection and destroy proximate cause?
If the intervening act is extraordinary under the circumstances, not foreseeable in the normal course of events, or independent of or far removed from the D's conduct, it may well be a superseding act which breaks the causal nexus.
An intervening act may not serve as a superseding cause and relieve a D of responsibility where the risk of the intervening act occurring is the very same risk which renders the D negligent.
The causal connection is not automatically severed because of intervening acts.
Liability turns on whether the intervening act is a normal and foreseeable consequence of the situation created by the D's negligence.
A jury could find that D was negligent in securing the work environment. A prime hazard associated with this negligence is that a car would enter the worksite and cause injury. The precise manner of the event need not be anticipated.
The fact that the D could not anticipate the precise manner of the accident or the exact extent of the injuries does not preclude liability where the general risk and character of injuries are foreseeable.
If it flows naturally from D's conduct, it's not a superseding act.