In the vast majority of personal injury cases, the determination of who was at fault in the incident comes down to determining who was negligent in the situation. The general standard used in these cases in most parts of the United States is that negligence is the failure to use a “reasonable” amount of care required for that particular situation.
To be able to prove someone was negligent, you must be able to identify that the person was both the actual and proximate (legal) cause of the injury. For that person to be found liable for negligence, the harm must have been foreseeable, though the extent of the harm is not limited in any way by what may or may not have been foreseeable.
Many legal advocates in the U.S. Virgin Islands maintain that the Virgin Islands Supreme Court should adopt this “reasonable” standard for foreseeability.
An overview of foreseeability
The scope of a person’s liability for an accident may be limited based on the foreseeability of the type and manner of harm, but not the extent of the harm done.
With regard to the “type of harm” stipulation, a person cannot be liable for a freak accident that could not have possibly been reasonably foreseeable. A person could, though, be held liable for a situation like not cleaning up broken glass or other such debris, as it could result in someone else being injured if they step on it. That is a reasonably foreseeable circumstance the person who failed to clean up the glass should have considered.
In addition, a person who injured another person cannot be held liable for a superseding cause, if it was not reasonably foreseeable. In such a case, this superseding act breaks the “causal chain” that exists between the initial act of negligence and the injury that occurred, which means the person who was negligent still does not have liability for the accident.
Finally, the foreseeability of the extent of harm does not limit the scope of a person’s potential liability for n accident. It doesn’t matter if the injury is major or minor—if the type of harm and the manner in which that harm occurred are both reasonably foreseeable, it doesn’t matter if the extent of the harm was foreseeable.
These standards of reasonable foreseeability are sensible to have in personal injury claims. They protect defendants from potentially frivolous claims, and provide clear, consistent standards to guide every type of claim involving any sort of negligence. It only makes sense that the U.S. Virgin Islands adopt these standards.
A. Jennings Stone is a senior attorney in the litigation practice group at the law firm of BoltNagi PC. BoltNagi PC is a full-service business law firm in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.