Something that precedes and brings about an effect or result, typically grounds for legal action.
Types of cause include:
Direct Cause – The active, efficient cause that sets in motion a chain of events that brings about a result without the intervention of any other independent source. Direct cause is often used interchangeably with proximate cause.
Immediate Cause – The nearest cause in point of time and space; it is not necessarily the direct or proximate cause.
Intervening Cause – A type of cause that helps to produce the result, but that comes into action after the negligence of the defendant. “Intervening” is used in a time sense; it refers to later events. For example, if the defendant sets a fire with a strong wind blowing at the time, which carries the fire to the plaintiff’s property, the wind does not intervene, since it was already in operation; but if the fire is set first, and the wind springs up later, it is then an intervening cause.
Proximate Cause – A type of cause which, in natural and continuous sequence unbroken by any new independent cause, produces an event and without which the injury would not have occurred. In tort law, one’s liability is generally limited to results “proximately caused” by his conduct or omission.
Remote Cause – A type of cause which does not necessarily produce an event without which injury would not occur. Thus, a cause which is not considered to be “proximate” will be regarded as “remote.”
Superseding Cause – A type of intervening cause which is so substantially responsible for the ultimate injury that it acts to cut off the liability of preceding actors regardless of whether their prior negligence was or was not a substantial factor in bringing about the injury complained of.
Courts sometimes use “superseding” interchangeably with “intervening” in which case it does not have this meaning. Properly, the term “superseding” is limited to an intervening cause which “by its intervention prevents the actor from being liable for harm to another which his antecedent negligence is a substantial factor in bring about.”