Causation Law in California

In People v. Cervantes (2001) 26 Cal.4th 860, the California high court outlined the law of causation as follows: "'In general, an "independent" intervening cause will absolve a defendant of criminal liability. However, in order to be "independent" the intervening cause must be "unforeseeable ... an extraordinary and abnormal occurrence, which rises to the level of an exonerating, superseding cause." On the other hand, a "dependent" intervening cause will not relieve the defendant of criminal liability. "A defendant may be criminally liable for a result directly caused by his act even if there is another contributing cause. If an intervening cause is a normal and reasonably foreseeable result of defendant's original act the intervening act is 'dependent' and not a superseding cause, and will not relieve defendant of liability. ' The consequence need not have been a strong probability; a possible consequence which might reasonably have been contemplated is enough. The precise consequence need not have been foreseen; it is enough that the defendant should have foreseen the possibility of some harm of the kind which might result from his act.' " (Id. at p. 871.) Thus, the key is foreseeability of the intervening cause.