South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Proximate Cause Not Established, So Negligence Claim Cannot Stand
Description

Appeals court held that for the probation department to fail to arrest a probationer in violation of his parole was not the proximate cause of a murder committed by the probationer while he was free. The state was not the proximate cause of the murder that was committed.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Proximate Cause, Liability, Negligence

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Salinas, age 15, was on probation for assault and was awaiting the start of a deferred jail term. He had violated terms of his parole but was allowed to remain on parole. During this time he killed Hamblin in the midst of an armed robbery. Hamblin's heirs sued the state of Arizona and various state law enforcement agencies for negligence for failure to arrest Salinas for violation of his probation. They contended that the state's willful ignorance of Salina's conduct allowed him to be free so that he could kill Hamblin. The trial court dismissed the suit. The Hamblins appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. To maintain a negligence action, a tort plaintiff must prove duty, breach of duty, causation and damages. Causation is a two-part inquiry; both cause in fact, or "but for" causation, and proximate cause must be present for legal liability to attach. Proximate cause is a combination of logic, common sense, justice, policy, and precedent that fixes a point in a chain of events, some foreseeable and some unforeseeable, beyond which the law will bar recovery. The actions of the Arizona probation department were not the proximate cause of the murder that occurred. The defendant's conduct was too far removed from the harm that occurred for liability to attach.

Citation

Hamblin v. State, ---P.3d--- (2006 WL 2729668, Ct. App., Ariz., 2006)

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