Though negligence is discovered in relation to one of the causes which have preceded the injurious effect, it does not follow that the author of the negligence is to be held legally responsible for the injury. In the first place, to judge the transaction according to the natural probabilities which men's minds take as the basis for passing judgment upon the course of human affairs, it may appear that causes other than the negligent one referred to so preponderated in bringing about the result as to lead us to say, from a human point of view, that the injury was just as likely to have ensued (with only its details somewhat varied, perhaps) if the negligent thing had not occurred. In such cases we exempt the author of the negligence from liability.
The injured party was operating his car when he came to a railroad track. As the injured party approached, the crossing the bars were up, the automobile's engine was given maximum power, and then as he came upon the tracks the bar was suddenly lowered. The injured party was penned upon the tracks; he threw on the brakes and stopped the automobile. As the injured party moved to the third track, the train dashed by on the second track. The injured party was so unnerved he forgot the condition in which he had left his levers and the engine "kicked back" throwing the injured party. In affirming the court held the injured party's fright was a condition rather than a cause of his injury.
Was the railroad's negligence considered the proximate cause of the injured party's injuries?
Nothing appears in the case made by the facts stated in the petition to require a belief that, according to the ordinary course of human probability, the fright and the consequent injury would have occurred if the negligence had not operated in a direct causal way upon the conditions surrounding the transaction. We find the plaintiff coming lawfully and prudently within the range of the defendant's activities; as he comes he is uninjured; while he is within the range of those activities the defendant violates the normal standard--acts as a reasonably prudent person would not have acted under the circumstances (for we are assuming the defendant's negligence); and before the plaintiff gets from within the range of these activities he is hurt as the result of a condition to the creation of which these activities contributed in a causal way; wherever else we look among the sum total of the general causes which joined to create the condition and to characterize it, we find no other variation from the normal course of prudence; we except all these other causes, class them as merely a part of the condition or innocuous medium through which the defendant's negligent activities became effectual, and say that the defendant's negligence was, therefore, the sole, direct, and proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury.