Remoteness of Damages
What a fascinating concept: the distance of damage. Once a mistake has been committed, there must be repercussions. How much culpability can be fixed, and what is the determining element in this case? These kinds of situations call for use of the Remote Damages Principle. A wrong can be the result of a single act or a succession of acts/wrongs, but it can also be the result of a single incident. The damage could be close or far away, or it could be too far away.
A few elaborations of cases would perhaps make it more clear.
Scott v. Shepherd:
‘A’ threw a lighted squib into a crowd, it fell upon ‘X’. In order to prevent injury to himself, X did the same thing and it fell upon Y. Y in his turn did the same thing and it then fell on B, as a result of which B lost one of his eyes. A was held liable to B. His act was the proximate cause of damage even though his act was farthest from the damage in so far as the acts X and Y had intervened in between.
Haynes v. Harwood
The defendant’s servants negligently left a house van unattended in a crowded street. The throwing of stones at the horses by a child, made them bolt and a policeman was injured in an attempt to stop them with a view to rescuing the woman and children on the road. One of the defenses pleaded by the defendant was remoteness of consequences i.e. the mischief of the child was the proximate cause and the negligence of the servants was a remote cause.
A person is going driving on a road, he hits a girl on the footpath, the girl tumbles on a bicycle breaks her finger, the bicycle man loses his balance and gets in front of a fuel tanker, the tanker to save the man on the bicycle steers left but unfortunately hits the railing to a river bridge and falls into it , the lock of the fuel tank breaks and the oil spills into the river , the driver with the truck drowns.
In the above case:
the girl being hit is the direct damage and it is the direct damage caused by the act of A
the damage caused to the cyclist is proximately caused by the falling of the girl and is remote to the act of A
the damage caused to the truck driver and the loss of material(fuel and fuel tank) is remote to the act of A and proximate to the act of the cyclist. And it is to be noted that the accountability to negligence is made on the assumption that the person is aware of the fact that rash driving can lead to fatalities. (though the expected and the actual results might not be the same).
A mathematical formula cannot definitively address the question of when consequential losses are not recoverable. Two formulas have been noted by judges when they have used their discretion:
The test of reasonable foresight - The effects of a wrongful conduct are not too distant if they may be predicted by a reasonable person. A rational person would not have predicted these outcomes, thus they are too far-fetched. A person is responsible only for repercussions that are not too distant, i.e. those could have been predicted by the individual.
The test of directness - If a wrongful conduct has direct repercussions, regardless of whether the perpetrator could foresee them, the perpetrator is accountable for all of those consequences. This is because the consequences of a wrongful act that has direct consequences are not too far away.