The Edmond Sun


July 20, 2013

ASK A LAWYER: Finding the elements of causation in law suits

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series of columns written by attorneys at Lester, Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.

Q: Why do we care about legal causation?

The answer to this question depends on who we mean by “we.” If we are my 15-year-old son, we don’t care at all. I asked him. If we are first-year law students, we care about causation in order to pass our Torts I exam. If we are passengers who have survived a bus crash, we care because the causation issue directly controls whether someone else will help us pay our medical bills. If we are members of a jury, we care because a judge has instructed us to evaluate causation and — trust me — we are finding it difficult.

Causation, in many ways, lies at the heart of the legal analysis of wrongdoing. Who is at fault? Who is responsible? In many cases, the causation issue dictates the answer. And causation means different things in different types of law suits. In a breach of contract claim, the plaintiff can only recover if he can prove that the defendant’s breach “caused” damage to the plaintiff. Analysis of causation in contract cases is made following one set of rules. Other rules apply to determining causation in personal injury and other types of cases.

I admit that this discussion seems a bit academic and, well, pointless. That is my son’s point. “Nobody cares about this stuff,” were his precise words. He’s mostly right. But my point in writing this series on the underlying construction of causes of action and lawsuits, is to demonstrate the overall complexity of our system of jurisprudence. I am attempting to illustrate not how to drive a car (which my 15-year-old son very much cares about), but how the interwoven parts of the car make it possible to drive a car. Just as cars only work with the various parts interacting — motor, transmission, brakes — lawsuits only succeed if all parts of the cause of action can be proven. These parts are called elements. Causation is one element in many causes of action. And, so, we care about causation for the same reason we care about the gas pedal in our car. Without causation, our lawsuit may not go anywhere.

Over the next few weeks, we will discuss how causes of action in different areas of law are constructed. We will start next week with torts and the elements of negligence. I’ll do my best to keep us both awake.

MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at Send questions to

Text Only
  • McCain 1 House Republicans are more active on Twitter than Democrats

    Your representative in the House is almost certainly on Twitter. Your senator definitely is. But how are they using the social network? Are Democrats more active than Republicans, or vice versa? Who has the most followers on the Hill?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Do your genes make you procrastinate?

    Procrastinators, in my experience, like nothing better than explaining away their procrastination: General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of the excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have added another option to the list: genetics.

    April 22, 2014

  • VIDEO: Moose charges snowmobile, flees after warning shot

    While snowmobiling in New England, Bob and Janis Powell of Maine were charged by a moose and caught the entire attack on camera.

    April 22, 2014

  • 6th annual run event in Guthrie to benefit Free to Live

    The sixth annual “The See Spot Run” will take place at 9 a.m. May 10 in downtown Guthrie. This 5K, 10K and 1-mile run/walk event benefits Free to Live, a nonprofit animal sanctuary located Logan County. In the past five years of this event “The See Spot Run” has welcomed more than 3,000 runners and raised $30,000 for the Free to Live Animal Sanctuary.
    “The See Spot Run” will offer all participants the opportunity to compete in either the 5K or 10K event in addition to a 1-mile “Fun Run.” Walkers and runners (both two- and four-legged) are welcome and can register directly at Visit Donations also can be sent to “The See Spot Run,” P.O. Box 292, Guthrie, 73044.

    April 21, 2014

  • Touch-A-Truck event draws families to UCO

    Edmond Electric and Edmond Vehicle Maintenance are co-hosting the Edmond Touch-A-Truck from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 17 in the UCO parking lot off Second Street. Touch-A-Truck is a fundraising event that provides children of all ages with the opportunity to experience life-size vehicles and interact with community support leaders like police officers, firemen, construction workers and many more. Families will have the opportunity for a hands-on exploration of many vehicles such as Edmond’s own fire trucks and police cars, an Edmond Electric bucket truck and even a solid waste truck.
    Admission for the Touch-A-Truck event is a suggested $2 donation with the proceeds going to the Edmond HOPE Center. For more information, contact Edmond Electric at 216-7671 or email

    April 21, 2014

  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 20, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-18 at 4.44.15 PM.png Paint, doodle and sketch: 3 apps for art lovers

    In the absence of a palette of watercolors and a sketchpad, these three apps can fill in as your art supplies of choice.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crazy spring weather brings frantic pleas

    It was a bright and sunny Saturday morning. Tulips were blooming, squirrels were all a’skitter, my allergy-prone nose was running ninety-to-nothing, and workmen were in my yard leaning on rakes at $18 an hour. You might know I’d be anxious to remedy that! They were waiting to get started on spreading 60 bags of mulch, which I was belatedly on my way to reserve and pre-pay so they could pick it up and get started. Rush ... rush ... rush, and oh my aching back.

    April 19, 2014

  • Oklahoma History Center new home for Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame

    The Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame has a new home at the Oklahoma History Center. Created in 1999, the hall of fame, operated by the Oklahoma Military Heritage Foundation, has been housed the past several years at Oklahoma Christian University but there was no available space to display photographs and information on the inductees.

    April 18, 2014