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Substantial Factor Need Not Mean Considerable or Large
Description Appeals court reversed decision of trial court to use dictionary definition of "substantial" to mean considerable or large. Under the Restatement, it is defined as significant or recognizable, which can mean it is not the determining factor.
Topic Torts
Key Words Substantial Factor, Causation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Plaintiffs sued for damages for injuries caused by exposure to asbestos. When the case went to the jury, the judge "stated that in order to show causation, a plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his exposure to asbestos constituted a ‘substantial contributing factor’ to the development of an asbestos-related malady." The jury asked for clarification about the term "substantial." The judge gave the jury the dictionary definition of "considerable in quantity; significantly large." When jury held for defendants, plaintiffs appealed.
Decision Reversed. "The ‘substantial factor’ test for determining proximate cause was incorporated into the Restatement (Second) of Torts ... which in turn has been adopted in Pennsylvania." The trial court’s dictionary definition of "substantial" is incorrect. As recognized in case law, it means significant or recognizable, and it need not be quantified as considerable or large.
Citation Jeter v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., —A.2d— (1998 WL 416211, Super. Ct., Pa.)
716 A.2d 633 (Super. Ct., Pa., 1998)

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