Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1999


Some of the most intriguing brain teasers in tort law involve the valuation of damages for harm arising from wrongfully inflicted injury to person or property. Consider the following example: A wrongdoer shoots and instantly kills a person in the path of an avalanche that would have killed the person a few seconds later. The person's survivors bring a wrongful death action against the shooter, seeking compensation for the loss of support they would have received from the decedent if she had lived. Should the court require the shooter to pay for loss of support beyond the time that the avalanche would have killed the decedent? Does the answer depend on whether the avalanche was caused by another wrongdoer? If the avalanche was caused by another wrongdoer, would that person be liable for any loss of future support? These questions are perplexing because either the gunshot or the avalanche alone would be sufficient to cause the loss of future support; therefore, it is difficult to attribute the harm to either cause.

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