The question of proximate cause is one which is of vital importance in determining where the liability for an act or omission shall fall. For this reason certain attempts have been made to set forth rules which should determine whether an act was the proximate cause of a particular result. The so-called "But For" rule for determining proximate cause is an outgrowth of this class of litigation and has been the cause of several interesting and apparently none too well reasoned cases, of which the famous "Bear Case" or Gilman v. Noyes is perhaps the best known. The true "But For" rule is simply this: the defendant's tort is the legal cause of the plaintiff's damage if, but for the commission of the defendant's tort, the damage would not have happened. It seems that the limitations of this rule have not always been understood. In the recent Washington case of Ross v. Smith & Bloxom the Court purported to decide the case upon the basis of the "But For" rule and cited several Washington cases in support of its position. The decision does not in fact, however, sustain the true "But For" rule and each of the Washington cases cited as sustaining it was correctly decided upon other grounds than that which the Court infers.
Gerald A. De Garmo,
Notes and Comments,
The "But for" Rule in Washington,
Wash. L. & Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol2/iss1/7