Proving Causation in Maryland Products Liability Cases

Proving causation in a Maryland negligence claim requires proving that the defendant’s negligent action was both a cause-in-fact on the plaintiff’s damages and a legally cognizable cause. This means that a plaintiff must show that the defendant’s actions were the actual cause and that the actions were sufficiently related and foreseeable. To prove the defendant’s actions were the cause-in-fact or “but-for” cause of the plaintiff’s damages, the defendant’s actions have to be proven to be the actual cause of the harm.

Maryland courts apply the “substantial factor test” when “two or more independent negligent acts bring about an injury.”  Under the substantial factor test, the defendant’s conduct must be a substantial factor in bringing about the plaintiff’s damages. Therefore, there can be more than one cause of injury—but the defendant’s conduct has to be a substantial factor in causing the harm.

This theory can be applied in Maryland products liability cases. In asbestos cases, Maryland courts consider whether the plaintiff’s exposure to an asbestos-containing product was a substantial factor in the development of the plaintiff’s injury. Courts generally consider the frequency, proximity, and regularity of a plaintiff’s exposure to a product to determine causation in such cases.

In a recent case before a state appeals court, the case was dismissed against multiple defendants after the plaintiff failed to prove that his exposure to any product on its own could have caused the plaintiff’s disease. In that case, a husband and wife claimed that the husband was exposed to products made by several defendants and which contained benzene, caused the husband to develop a blood and marrow disease. The husband was exposed to the products throughout four decades of installing carpets and flooring.

Each defendant argued that the husband would have developed the disease whether or not he had been exposed to their specific product, and that their product on its own was insufficient to bring about his disease. The court agreed. The court explained that under the state’s laws, each defendant had to show that its own product did not produce or contribute substantially to causing the husband’s disease, and that his disease would have occurred even without the contribution of that product.

In this case, each of the defendants’ products on their own contributed “only a small fraction” of the husband’s exposure over his life, which was below the amount that was likely to have caused the husband’s illness, as stated by the plaintiffs’ own experts. Each product on its own did not make a significant difference in causing the husband’s disease. Therefore, each defendant’s actions could not have been enough alone to cause the defendant’s disease. Also, the court distinguished the case from cigarette cases, because the defendants’ products did not have any addictive qualities as cigarettes do and the defendants did not concede that their product causes the disease.

Have You Been Injured by a Defective or Harmful Product?

If you have been injured by a defective or harmful product, or in another personal injury case, contact a dedicated Maryland product liability lawyer. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, we have the tenacity and resources to pursue all parties responsible for causing your injuries and losses. We will guide you through each step of the legal process and work towards the solution that meets your specific needs. We want to help you get your life back on track. To set up a free consultation, call us at (800) 654-1949 or contact us online.

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