The but for test works well most of the time but it

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The but-for test works well most of the time, but it begins to break down when we're dealing withmultiple concurrent or successive causes of a plaintiff's injury, so that the defendant's negligence isonly one of several possible (or actual) causes. This is one species of the but-for test.B. The Concurrent Causes TestThe concurrent causes test is fairly specialized, in that it usually applies only when (A) multiple actsor forces combined to cause an injury and (B) neither force alone would have been sufficient tocause the injury.For example, Bruno, driving his car negligently, causes Jack to swerve to the side in order to avoidhitting Bruno. In swerving to avoid Bruno, Jack drives his own car negligently, causing him to crashinto Jill, a pedestrian, injuring her. Jill sues both Jack and Bruno. Notice that neither negligent act, byitself, was sufficient to cause Jill’s injury. Bruno’s negligence made it necessary for Jack to swerve toavoid him, but Jack’s negligent driving in avoiding Bruno injured Jill. Neither act alone would havecaused Jill’s injury, but the confluence of both did cause it.C. The Substantial Factor TestThe substantial factor test is fairly similar in feel to the concurrent causes doctrine, but with one keydistinction. In contrast to the concurrent causes test, the substantial factor test is used if (1) multipleacts or forces combine, at the same time, to cause an injury, and (2) either by itself would have beensufficient, and (3) it is impossible to tell which force caused what portion of the injury, if any. Thesubstantial factor test holds that, if the defendant’s negligent act was one of these things that wouldhave been sufficient to cause the injury by itself, then it was a substantial factor in causing theinjury, and thus actual causation will be met—even though technically the but-for test fails, sincethere existed another force which would have caused the injury anyway.Bruno negligently starts a big fire. Natural forces start another big fire. Both fires meet at Jack’s barn,and Jack’s barn is burned down. Either fire alone would have been sufficient to burn down the barn.Here, Bruno’s fire is not a but-for cause of the barn burning down, since, because of the natural fire,the barn would have burned down anyway, even if Bruno had not been negligent and started his ownfire. However, since Bruno’s fire also would have burned down the barn by itself, even without thenatural fire, courts would deem Bruno’s negligent fire to be a substantial factor in the barn’sdestruction.D. The Alternative Causes DoctrineSometimes, multiple defendants will be negligent under circumstances where the plaintiff will provethat one of the defendants caused the plaintiff’s injury, but will be unable to prove which one. Inthese cases, once the plaintiff proves that one of the several defendants must have caused the13
injury, the burden will shift to each possible “causer” to show that the causer’s particular act ofnegligence was not the actual cause. Those who cannot exculpate themselves risk being held jointly

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