Introduction and basic concepts


X.Causation and Significance of Resulting Harm



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X.Causation and Significance of Resulting Harm


    1. Theory

      1. Tort law is obsessed with causation. Criminal law is much more conduct oriented – elements of intent and deterring socially harmful conduct, rather than making the victim whole after harm is committed

      2. There are some arguments for not considering effects at all, but these might lead to laws that are over-inclusive, and under-inclusive. Result is often relevant in determining sentencing or crime itself (ex. felony-murder)

      3. Criminal law also holds people accountable for results they did not cause:

        1. You’re responsible for that result because you bear a responsibility to another party or for a specific item (duty)

        2. You are responsible if you helped plan something, even if you didn’t carry it out

        3. inchoate crimes

      4. but for” causation casts the net wider than “proximate cause”

      5. There can be causation without mens rea (a verbal fight causes someone to leave the house, and he is hit by a car) or mens rea without causation ( can fire at victim and miss, while another accidentally fires at victim and kills him).

      6. Foreseeability” many cases are about holding criminals responsibility for foreseeable results in their crimes. The question is where we draw the line. What is a foreseeable result

      7. Constructed Intent – Person Shoots at A but kills B instead. He did not intend to kill B, but he’s still liable. Variation: Bullet goes through A and kills B. Both crimes fit purposeful murder under MPC §210 and 2.03.




    1. MPC §2.03

      1. (1) Cause defined: (a) but for; and (b) relation ship satisifies any additional casual requirements imposed by code or other law

      2. (2) When purposefully or knowingly cause a particular result is an element, element is not established if actual result is not w/in purpose or contemplation

        1. (a) Still causation if only difference is different person or different property inured, or lesser harm is inflicted

        2. (b) Still causation if actual harm is the same kind of injury, and is not too remote of accidental

      3. (3) When recklessly or negligent causeing a particular result is an element, element is nto extablished if aactual result is not w/in risk which the actor was (or should have been) aware. Same exceptions as above

      4. (4) Element is not established unless actual result is a probable consequence [Concept of forseeability as above – what is a “probably consequence”?]




    1. Cases:

      1. People v. Acosta: Question is: was the accident foreseeable and was it caused by the ?  led police on a 48-mile chase, during it two police helicopters collided and three died.  claims the collision wasn’t foreseeable (had never happened before), he got off on the malice part of the statute (to be reckless he would have had to seen risks and acted despite them, he didn’t know of the helicopters).

      2. People v. Warner Lambert:  corporation and several of its officers were indicted fro 2nd degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for an explosion at a factory (after they had been warned by their insurance carrier that one was possible). They got off because the Court found their actions were not a sufficient direct cause of the ensuing death (evidence not legally sufficient to establish forseeability of the immediate, triggering cause of explosion).

      3. Commonwealth v. Wilansky:Waiter in a night carelessly struck a match and caused a fire. Several hundred nightclub patrons died. Owner held liable because the exits were blocked off

      4. People v. Kibbe: Two robbers mug a man and leave on the side of the road in the cold. Man was hit by a truck and killed – would have thought man might freeze to death, but they claim they didn’t think of truck hitting him. Robbers were held liable (death was foreseeable).

      5. People v. Arzon -  lit fire by deliberate arson. Firefighters got trapped by another (unrelated) fire on a lower floor. Court denied motion to dismiss




    1. Subsequent Human Actions – Assisted Suicide

      1. MPC §210.5

        1. criminal homicide if causes suicide by force, duress or deception [there must be more than just aid]

        2. Aiding or soliciting suicide is a felony of the 2nd degree (or misdemeanor if no suicide (or attempt) results




      1. People v. Campbell:  charged with murder for providing ga gun to victim who then killed himself after  encouraged him. Victim slept with ’s wife, and both had been drinking heavily. Court rules that “hope” is not “intent,” and Campbell did not actually kill victim. MPC could be statutory solution suggested by court (Is drunkenness deception?)

      2. People v. Kevorkian: Supreme Court of MI ordered lower court to reconsider a motion to quash in light of analysis that assisted suicide is not a crime unless death was a direct and natural result of Kevorkian’s conduct. In a later case, Kevorkian actually injected the deceased, taped it, and dared prosecutor to help him.




    1. Subsequent Human Actions not intended to product results

      1. State v. Stevenson – kidnapped woman take poison to kill herself.  claims that she procured and took the poison on her own. The Court upholds the conviction – kidnapping and abuse facilitated the taking of poison, and  did not seek proper medical attention.

      2. State v. McFadden -  and victim were in a drag race. Victim crashes into another car. Victim and driver or other die.Affirm conviction of  for 2 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

      3. Commonwealth v. Atencio: “Russian Roulette” – third guy shot himself. Court ruled that 2 defendants and victim were engaged in a joint enter prise with mutual encouragement (much more than mere presence in the room). Indictments for manslaughter affirmed

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