legal cause

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A cause that produces a result in a natural and probable sequence and without which the result would not have occurred. Legal cause involves examining the foreseeability of consequences, and whether a defendant should be held legally responsible for such consequences. The focus in the legal causation analysis is whether, as a matter of policy, the connection between the ultimate result and the act of the defendant is too remote or insubstantial to impose liability. For example, in Dupre & Son Floor Covering, Inc. v. City of Iota, the court found the police officers’ failure to impound a pickup truck after its driver failed to provide proof of insurance, was not the legal cause of a motor vehicle accident where the pickup truck driver crossed centerline of a highway and struck another vehicle. The court held that it was not foreseeable to the officers that nine days later the driver of the pickup truck would cause an accident.

Also referred to as proximate cause.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]