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Paroline v. United States: Key Concepts

Key Concepts and Definitions

Aggregate Causation

 “exists where the tortious conduct of multiple actors has combined to bring about harm, even if the harm suffered by the plaintiff might be the same if one of the numerous tortfeasors had not committed the tort.”


"But For"  Rule

One of several tests to determine if a defendant is responsible for a particular happening. In this test, was there any other cause, or would it have occurred "but for" the defendant's actions? Example: "But for" defendant Drivewild's speeding, the car would not have gone out of control, and therefore the defendant is responsible. This is shorthand for whether the action was the "proximate cause" of the damage.


Cause in Fact

Cause in fact requires that the defendant’s negligent conduct was the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. This is also known as the “but-for” test. “But for” the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff would not have been injured.


Joint and several liability

At common law, the liability of joint tortfeasors was joint and several. The joint and several liability doctrine, which applies when more than one defendant tortiously contributed to the plaintiff's injury, allows a nonnegligent plaintiff to recover the full amount of the damages arising from the tortiously caused injury from any one or any combination of the defendants who tortiously contributed to the injury.


Proximate cause

The immediate reason damage was caused by an act or omission (negligence); the negligence must have caused the damages, without intervention of another party, and can- not be remote in time or place. Example (in a complaint): "Defendant's negligent acts (speeding and losing control of his vehicle) directly and proximately caused plaintiff's injuries."


Restorative restitution

Refers to a process for resolving crime by focusing on redressing the harm done to the victims, holding offenders accountable for their actions and, often also, engaging the community in the resolution of that conflict. Participation of the parties is an essential part of the process that emphasizes relationship building, reconciliation and the development of agreements around a desired outcome between victims and offender. Restorative justice processes can be adapted to various cultural contexts and the needs of different communities. Through them, the victim, the offender and the community regain some control over the process.


Rule of the last antecedent

A doctrine of interpretation by which a court finds that qualifying words or phrases refer to the language immediately preceding the qualifier, unless common sense shows that it was meant to apply to something more distant or less obvious. For example, in the phrase "the commercial vehicular license shall not apply to boats, tractors, and trucks under three tons, " the qualifier "under three tons" applies only to trucks and not to boats or tractors.

Injury vs Harm

"Injury” denotes the fact that there has been an invasion of a legally protected interest which, if it were the legal consequence of a tortious act, would entitle the person suffering the invasion to maintain an action of tort. It differs from the word “harm” in this: “harm” implies the existence of loss or detriment in fact, which may not necessarily be the invasion of a legally protected interest. The most usual form of injury is the infliction of some harm; but there may be an injury although no harm is done.

“Harm” implies a loss or detriment to a person, and not a mere change or alteration in some physical person, object or thing. Physical changes or alterations may be either beneficial, detrimental, or of no consequence to a person. In so far as physical changes have a detrimental effect on a person, that person suffers harm.

Restatement (Second) of Torts § 7 (1965)

*Key Concepts derived from Black's Law Dictionary unless otherwise noted

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