In order to maintain an action for negligence in Georgia, the plaintiff must show that the defendants’ conduct was directly responsible for the injury complained of. Many times, there is more than one wrongful act which cause the injury. In these situations, the plaintiff carries the burden against each defendant by proving that each wrongful act caused “or substantially contributed to” the injury. In other words, in order for the plaintiff to prevail at trial, she must show that it is more likely than not that the defendants’ actions, either alone or in concert, caused her injuries. Singleton v. Phillips, 494 S.E.2d 66 (Ga.App. 1997).
Many times, this issue is fiercely litigated in Georgia injury cases. In fact, this precise issue arouse in a recent Fulton County State Court case and the Judge gave the following charge to the jury:
“In order for the plaintiff to recover, you must find that the Defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of her injuries. Proximate cause is a legal term. When a person’s act or failure to act directly and immediately causes an injury, it is the “proximate
cause” of that injury.
The proximate cause of an injury must be more than a remote or trivial factor. However, it does not have to be the only cause of harm. Liability may be imposed when a defendant’s conduct played a substantial part in bringing about the injury, even if some other forces for which the actor was not responsible contributed to the harm in some way.” As defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, proximate cause is “that which, in a natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces injury, and without which the results would not have occurred. that which is nearest in the order of responsible causation. That which stands next in causation to the effect, not necessarily in time or space but in causal relation. The proximate cause of an injury is the primary or moving cause, or that which, in a natural or continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury and without which the accident could not have happened, if the injury be one that might be reasonably anticipated or foreseen as a natural consequence of the wrongful act. An injury or damage is proximately caused by an act, or a failure to act, whenever it appears from the evidence in the case, that the act or omission played a substantial part in bringing about or actually causing the injury or damage; and that the injury or damage was either a direct result or a reasonably probable consequence or the act or omission.
This is the proper charge and it illustrates very effectively how the jury should view the issue of negligence. While this is not the only way to charge the jury on this issue, it is the most appropriate.