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Eighth Circuit Circuit Court Finds Independent Intervening Cause As Defense to Liability

A tragic accident led to a personal injury suit and a series of appeals after the court found in favor of the defendants. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently released its opinion stemming from an accident that occurred back in June. According to the court’s written opinion, the family was traveling down a highway in two separate cars when one of the cars was hit by a semi-tractor trailer and subsequently slammed into their family member’s car that was in front of them. All of the family members died in the accident.


Evidently, the accident occurred after a series of fateful events. A man driving a tractor-trailer hit an object in the road, and he pulled over to the right-hand lane. Although it was determined that the man could have moved over completely to the shoulder, experts did find that he followed all other safety procedures beyond the required regulations. As he was stopped, a semi-truck driver did not slow down and slammed into the tractor-trailer. The semi-truck driver was killed in the fiery accident.

The family safely stopped their car as emergency personnel arrived, but another semi-tractor trailer driver failed to stop and slammed into the family at a rate of about 75 mph. Investigators found that the driver was driving for more than three hours past the time that drivers are allowed to drive without a break, and he did not attempt to brake before the accident. In addition to bringing a suit against the semi-tractor trailer driver, they brought a suit against both of the other drivers and their employers. Those individuals responded to the suit by filing a motion for summary judgment, asking that the case be dismissed under the theory of “efficient intervening cause.” The Circuit Court determined the family’s injuries were not proximately caused by the negligence of the other drivers, and the semi-tractor trailer driver that crashed into the family’s cars was an “efficient intervening cause.”

Georgia Law Regarding an Intervening Cause

When an individual brings a car accident lawsuit against another, they must be able to establish all of the elements of negligence. One of these elements is that the defendant was the actual or proximate cause of the injury that occurred. In certain situations, an individual may be added as a defendant to the case when they did not actually cause the accident. A plaintiff may argue that the defendant was the proximate cause, essentially meaning that the person could have foreseen that their actions could have resulted in the damages that were incurred by the plaintiff. A defendant in a case like this will likely argue that their behavior was too attenuated from the accident that actually resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.

Georgia law does allow the theory of independent intervening causes, but the standard is quite strict. Georgia courts look to not only the defendant’s actions but also to whether the subsequent injuries were reasonably foreseeable. In one particular case, a Georgia court denied summary judgment and said that the jury had factual questions that needed to be determined. In the case discussed above, the court found that the original two drivers could not have foreseen that their actions, presumably safe, would have resulted in the tragic accident.

Have You Been Injured in a Multi-Vehicle Accident in Georgia?

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Georgia, you may consider filing a personal injury lawsuit against those parties that may have caused your injuries. These cases can often be complex because it is likely that the parties will try and deflect responsibility by using theories such as the one above. An attorney at Miller Legal Services can assist you in pursuing your case and will do their best to ensure that all possible culpable parties are named and held accountable. Contact an attorney at Miller Legal Services today at 770-284-3727 to schedule your free initial consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Georgia Man Killed in Out-of-State Car Accident, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, August 12, 2015.

Georgia Motorcyclist Involved in Fatal Accident After Colliding with Sedan, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, August 26, 2015.