(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the proceedings.)
PLAINTIFFS’ EXPERTS ARE REQUIRED TO TESTIFY ONLY AS TO WHETHER THE CAUSATION WAS A SUBSTANTIAL FACTOR – AND THEY ARE NOT REQUIRED TO QUANTIFY THE PERCENTAGE OF INJURY
Plaintiffs’ experts are required only to testify whether a cause of injury is a substantial factor and this has long been the rule in California: The law defines cause in its own particular way. A cause of injury, damage, loss or harm is something that is a substantial factor in bringing about an injury, damage, loss or harm. (BAJI No. 3.76).
And as the USE NOTE states in BAJI, [t]his instruction, and the Comment thereto, were approved in Espinosa v. Little Co. of Mary Hospital (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 1304, 1314 …. (BAJI 3.76 (1997 Supp.).) This situation is almost directly on point with Espinosa. In the Espinosa case, the minor plaintiff suffered from a brain injury which had three possible contributory causes, one of which was clearly not due to the defendants’ negligence.
During the presentation of the plaintiffs’ case at trial, the plaintiff’s expert on causation testified that there were three time frames in terms of the factors that are involved in causing this child’s condition, chronic, sub-acute, and acute. (Emphasis in original.) (Id. at p. 1311.) The expert also testified that he could not quantify the extent of the interrelationship between these three time frames as a cause of plaintiff’s injury. After the conclusion of plaintiffs’ evidence, the Court granted a non-suit because the plaintiff had not sufficiently established the element of causation between the defendants’ acts and Plaintiff’s brain damage.
The Court of Appeal reversed the trial Court and held that the plaintiff expert’s
inability to pin down the exact extent to which defendants’ conduct contributed to the outcome is immaterial for the purposes of causation. Clearly, where a defendant’s negligence is a concurring cause of an injury, the law regards it as a legal cause of the injury, regardless of the extent to which it contributes to the injury. [Footnote omitted.] (BAJI No. 3.77.) (Espinosa, supra. 31 Cal.App.4th. at pp. 1317-1318.) (See Part 3 of 4.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.