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Automobile Collisions / Workers' Compensation

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MVA Settlement Damages Causation Public Policy

In a Wisconsin MVA settlement case, what damages causation is composed of two concepts: (1) cause in fact and (2) public-policy considerations. See Morgan v. Pennsylvania Gen. Ins. Co., 87 Wis. 2d 723 (1979). Once a breach of duty is established, the defendant's wrong is the cause in fact of all consequences, both foreseen and unforeseen, for which the wrong is a substantial factor producing the injury. Pfeifer, 262 Wis. at 235-36; A.E. Inv. Corp., 62 Wis. 2d at 484. Note that there may be more than one substantial factor causing a party's loss, that is, there may be more than one cause in fact. Morgan, 87 Wis. 2d at 735. The defendant is liable for damages that are a natural consequence of the wrong, even though the defendant did not intend or foresee such damages. However, the court can still prohibit recovery on public policy reasons if the damages are just too remote from the negligent conduct. See Rockweit v. Senecal, 197 Wis. 2d 409 (1995).

Whether the defendant's wrong was a substantial factor in bringing about the harm claimed in a particular case is a question of fact for the jury. See Jagmin v. Simonds Abrasive Co., 61 Wis. 2d 60 (1973). However, if the facts are so clear that reasonable persons could not differ on the causation question, no factual issue is presented, and the court can decide any such causation issue as a matter of law. Helmbrecht v. St. Paul Ins. Co., 122 Wis. 2d 94, 125 (1985).

Whether public-policy considerations preclude the imposition of liability is a pure question of law for the judge. Coffey v. City of Milwaukee, 74 Wis. 2d 526 (1976). The Wisconsin Supreme Court has held that usually the jury should decide negligence and cause-in-fact issues before the judge addresses public-policy considerations to limit liability. Hornback v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 2008 WI 98, 313 Wis. 2d 294.

These public-policy considerations may insulate a defendant from liability, if the imposition of liability would shock the conscience of society. Pfeifer, 262 Wis. at 238-39.

The injury is too remote from the negligence.

The injury is wholly out of proportion to the culpability of the negligent tortfeasor.

In retrospect it appears too highly extraordinary that the negligence should have brought about the harm.

Allowance of recovery would place too unreasonable a burden on the negligent tortfeasor.

Allowance of recovery would be too likely to open the way for fraudulent claims.

Allowance of recovery would enter a field that has no sensible or just stopping point.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin McCormick Law Office represents drivers and passengers injured through the negligence of drivers who cause medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering from car crashes.

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Milwaukee, WI 53202

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