“Causation” is an essential element of a tort action. Defendants are not liable unless their conduct such as the act or omission constituting a breach of duty to plaintiff was a “legal cause” of plaintiff’s injury. [Saelzler v. Advanced Group 400 (2001). Legal causation is generally a question of fact to be determined by the jury … unless, as a matter of law, the facts admit of only one conclusion. [Ortega v. Kmart Corp. (2001)]. The burden of proving lack of causation is properly shifted to a defendant who, being prima facie at fault in an automobile accident, asserts brake failure as a defense. Plaintiff should not be penalized if postaccident examination of the vehicle cannot possibly uncover the cause of the alleged brake failure (e.g., the damage has already been repaired or is too severe to permit analysis of the braking system). Defendant is in a better position to discover and preserve evid ence of his or her own braking system and hence should be required to show the cause of the failure. [Harris v. Irish Truck Lines, Inc., supra,].
Ordinarily, tort liability cannot be established unless plaintiffs can prove their injuries resulted from the tortious acts of a particular defendant or defendants. As a general rule, the burden of proof as to negligence (duty and breach) and causation rests upon plaintiff; and plaintiff does not meet this burden simply by demonstrating that one of several defendants could have been responsible. However, where an accident is of such a nature that, in light of past experience, it probably was the result of someone’s negligence and defendant is probably the one responsible, the law may permit the trier of fact to draw an inference of defendant’s negligence. This is the doctrine of “res ipsa loquitur.” It is an evidentiary rule. In California Law, the doctrine is defined as a presumption affecting the burden of producing evidence -i.e., provided three preliminary fact conditions are met, defendant is presumed to have been negligent and the burden shifts to defendant to produce evidence either that he or she was not negligent or that any negligence on his or her part was not a proximate cause of the occurrence. It would be best o seek personal assistance from a lawyer in order to help you with your personal injury case.
To read more, click here.