Establishing Causation in Negligence Lawsuits: The Key to Prevailing in Court

leon_congress_parliament_180330-768x1024Dreaming of your day in court? Understanding the crucial elements necessary to succeed in your claim is essential. When pursuing a negligence lawsuit, one of the most challenging elements to establish is proving that the other party caused your injuries. Failure to provide sufficient evidence demonstrating a factual dispute regarding the cause of your injuries may lead to the dismissal of your lawsuit at the summary judgment stage, even before stepping foot in a courtroom. This case highlights the significance of meeting the burden of proof on causation and the potential consequences of failing to do so.

Jerome Mackey fractured his clavicle and injured his hand when he fell off the roof of Ronald and Kim Thompson’s house while climbing down a ladder Ronald Thompson had provided him. The Thompsons had hired Mackey earlier in the day to put a new roof on their house. Mackey filed a lawsuit against the Thompsons. 

The Thompsons filed a summary judgment motion, arguing Mackey had no evidence establishing they had caused his accident. The Thompsons provided deposition testimony from Mackey and an individual working with Mackey but not involved in the lawsuit. The Thompsons claimed this deposition testimony established Mackey and the uninvolved individual were responsible for Mackey’s fall. To counter this evidence, Mackey also provided deposition testimony and an affidavit from a contractor hired to inspect and photograph the ladder and roof following the accident. The trial court granted the Thompsons’ summary judgment motion and dismissed the case. Mackey appealed. 

The issue on appeal was whether the trial court erred by granting the Thompsons’ summary judgment motion. Under La. C.C.P. art. 966, summary judgment is appropriate if there are no genuine issues of material fact. The appellate court reviews a trial court’s decision to grant a summary judgment motion using the same criteria as a trial court uses. See Schroeder v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University.

Here, the evidence provided to the trial court was two depositions and an affidavit from Mackey’s expert. Mackey argued the affidavit from his expert presented a genuine issue of material fact such that summary judgment was inappropriate. 

The appellate court explained that Mackey’s expert affidavit did not address causation. Nothing in the affidavit contradicted Mackey’s deposition testimony that he fell because the party not involved in the litigation was not holding the ladder. All the other deposition testimony was consistent with this. Because Mackey had no evidence to show that any conduct from the Thompsons caused his fall, there were no genuine issues of materials. Therefore, the appellate court held that the trial court did not err in granting the Thompsons’ summary judgment action and dismissing Mackey’s claim. 

In Mackey’s case, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision to grant the defendant’s summary judgment motion due to the plaintiff’s inability to provide evidence establishing causation. Despite the affidavit from Mackey’s expert, which he argued presented a genuine issue of material fact, the court determined that it did not address causation. Without evidence demonstrating that the conduct of the Thompsons caused the plaintiff’s fall, there were no genuine issues of material fact. Seeking guidance from a knowledgeable attorney is crucial when pursuing a claim after an accident, as they can help you understand the necessary evidence to establish causation and prevent the dismissal of your lawsuit.

Additional Sources: Jerome Mackey v. Ronald Thompson, et al.

Written by Berniard Law Firm

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Causation Requirements: Cause-in-Fact Requirements of a Negligence Lawsuit  Louisiana Car Accident Victim Fails To Establish Causation Through Housley Causation Presumption

Contact Information