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Negligent navigation and causation conundrums: a case of reshuffling the Titanic's deck chairs?
Tort Law Review (2012)
  • Douglas Hodgson, The University of Notre Dame Australia
Abstract
Intervening causation issues, as a subspecies of causation law, can be quite
complex and difficult to resolve judicially. Such issues can, and do, commonly
arise across a broad spectrum of human activity, including in a maritime law
context. Novus actus interveniens has been pleaded from time to time over
the past 150 years or so in cases involving collisions between ships. The
defendant responsible for a collision may argue exculpation from liability on
the ground that temporally, between the initial collision and the eventual
destruction or abandonment of the ship, there arose a chain-breaking novus
actus interveniens. Such an intervening event may comprise an unreason-
able or “unseamanlike” response to the emergency taken by the captain of
the imperilled ship in mitigation of damage created by the defendant’s
negligence, an unreasonable or imprudent refusal by the former to accept
timely assistance from the captain of the other ship or a third party, and
intervening heavy weather or other extraordinary natural phenomena. This
article examines leading maritime intervening causation cases with a view to
identifying those criteria or factors which judges have found useful and have
applied in resolving intervening causation issues in this field. It also considers
whether, in cases involving the plaintiff’s intervening negligence or
recklessness, an application of contributory or comparative negligence
legislation is more appropriate in determining the extent of the defendant’s
legal liability.
Disciplines
Publication Date
2012
Citation Information
Hodgson, D. (2012). Negligent navigation and causation conundrums: a case of reshuffling the Titanic's deck chairs? Tort Law Review, 2012(20), 41-57