Negligence requires a showing of proximate cause, while producing cause is the test in strict liability. Proximate and producing cause differ in that foreseeability is an element of proximate cause, but not of producing cause. Proximate cause consists of both cause in fact and foreseeability. Cause in fact means that the defendant's act or omission was a substantial factor in bringing about the injury which would not otherwise have occurred. A producing cause is an efficient, exciting, or contributing cause, which in a natural sequence, produced injuries or damages complained of, if any. Common to both proximate and producing cause is causation in fact, including the requirement that the defendant's conduct or product be a substantial factor in bringing about the plaintiff's injuries.
Respondent worker was injured when she slipped on a pipe rack that was wet because of efforts to extinguish fire in equipment made by petitioner manufacturer. Respondent brought an action against petitioner, alleging negligence, gross negligence, and strict liability. The trial court granted petitioner summary judgment because respondent failed to demonstrate that the fire in the equipment was the cause of the injury. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case to the trial court, holding that there were issues of fact concerning proximate and producing cause. Petitioner sought a writ of error challenging the judgment.
Was the petitioner manufacturer liable for the respondent worker’s injuries?
The court held that in order to be a legal cause of another's harm, petitioner's negligence had to have been a "substantial" factor in bringing about respondent's injury. The court held that legal cause was not established because petitioner's product did no more than create the condition that made respondent's injury possible. The court reversed the court of appeals' judgment, holding that the circumstances surrounding respondent's injuries were too remotely connected with petitioner's conduct or product to constitute a legal cause of her injuries.