401.12 LEGAL CAUSE (Florida Standard Jury Instruction)
401.12 LEGAL CAUSE
a. Legal cause generally:
Negligence is a legal cause of [loss] [injury] [or] [damage] if it directly and in natural and continuous sequence produces or contributes substantially to producing such [loss] [injury] [or] [damage], so that it can reasonably be said that, but for the negligence, the [loss] [injury] [or] [damage] would not have occurred.
b. Concurring cause:
In order to be regarded as a legal cause of [loss] [injury] [or] [damage] negligence need not be the only cause. Negligence may be a legal cause of [loss] [injury] [or] [damage] even though it operates in combination with [the act of another] [some natural cause] [or] [some other cause] if the negligence contributes substantially to producing such [loss] [injury] [or] [damage].
c. Intervening cause:
Do not use the bracketed first sentence if this instruction is preceded by the instruction on concurring cause:*
*[In order to be regarded as a legal cause of [loss] [injury] [or] [damage], negligence need not be its only cause.] Negligence may also be a legal cause of [loss] [injury] [or] [damage] even though it operates in combination with [the act of another] [some natural cause] [or] [some other cause] occurring after the negligence occurs if [such other cause was itself reasonably foreseeable and the negligence contributes substantially to producing such [loss] [injury] [or] [damage]] [or] [the resulting [loss] [injury] [or] [damage] was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the negligence and the negligence contributes substantially to producing it].
NOTES ON USE FOR 401.12
1. Instruction 401.12a (legal cause generally) is to be given in all cases. Instruction 401.12b (concurring cause), to be given when the court considers it necessary, does not set forth any additional standard for the jury to consider in determining whether negligence was a legal cause of damage but only negates the idea that a defendant is excused from the consequences of his or her negligence by reason of some other cause concurring in time and contributing to the same damage. Instruction 401.12c (intervening cause) is to be given only in cases in which the court concludes that there is a jury issue as to the presence and effect of an intervening cause.
2. The jury will properly consider instruction 401.12a not only in determining whether defendant’s negligence is actionable but also in determining whether claimant’s negligence contributed as a legal cause to claimant’s damage, thus reducing recovery.
3. Instruction 401.12b must be given whenever there is a contention that some other cause may have contributed, in whole or part, to the occurrence or resulting injury. If there is an issue of aggravation of a preexisting condition or of subsequent injuries/multiple events, instructions 501.5a or 501.5b should be given as well. See Hart v. Stern, 824 So. 2d 927, 932–34 (Fla. 5th DCA 2002); Marinelli v. Grace, 608 So. 2d 833, 835 (Fla. 4th DCA 1992).
4. Instruction 401.12c (intervening cause) embraces two situations in which negligence may be a legal cause notwithstanding the influence of an intervening cause: (1) when the damage was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the negligence although the other cause was not foreseeable, Mozer v. Semenza, 177 So. 2d 880 (Fla. 3d DCA 1965), and (2) when the intervention of the other cause was itself foreseeable, Gibson v. Avis Rent-A-Car System, Inc., 386 So. 2d 520 (Fla. 1980).
5. “Probable” results. The committee recommends that the jury not be instructed that the damage must be such as would have appeared “probable” to the actor or to a reasonably careful person at the time of the negligence. In cases involving an intervening cause, the term “reasonably foreseeable” is used in place of “probable.” The terms are synonymous and interchangeable. See Sharon v. Luten, 165 So. 2d 806, 810 (Fla. 1st DCA 1964); Prosser, Torts 291 (3d ed.); 2 Harper & James, The Law of Torts, 1137.
6. The term “substantially” is used throughout the instruction to describe the extent of contribution or influence negligence must have in order to be regarded as a legal cause. “Substantially” was chosen because the word has an acceptable common meaning and because it has been approved in Florida as a test of causation not only in relation to defendant’s negligence, Loftin v. Wilson, 67 So. 2d 185, 191 (Fla. 1953), but also in relation to plaintiff’s comparative negligence, Shayne v. Saunders, 176 So. 495, 498 (Fla. 1937).