Kibbe v. Henderson

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 1976.

534 F.2d 493.

Dressler, pp. 201-204


Facts: The defendant and another man robbed the victim and left him out on the highway where he was later struck by a car.The defendant was found guilty of murder and appealed on the basis that the court did not allow the jury to consider whether he caused the death of the victim.


Issue: Did the trial court err in failing to instruct the jury with respect to the issue of causation?


Rule: By statute, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant caused the victimís death.


Analysis: The definition of causation is complex, and the court finds it was essential that the jury be provided with such a definition.


Conclusion: The court found that the trial judge had given the jury incomplete instructions and thus had violated the defendantís right to due process.


Notes and Questions


1.          So this was all for naught.

2.          An airplane making an emergency landing is far less foreseeable than a speeding motorist.I think getting hit by an airplane is a far more ďindependentĒ cause of death then getting hit by a car when youíre left on a road.It would be different if you were dumped out of the robbersí car on a landing strip.

3.          The LaFave and Scott excerpt would have been way too complicated for the jury.I think a good jury instruction would focus on the contrast between the words ďcoincidenceĒ and ďresponseĒ.For example: ďIn other for you to convict the defendant of murder, you must find that it has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim getting hit by a truck was a response to the defendantís conduct rather than merely a coincidence

4.          I think Stafford must be seen to be contributorily negligent, so if his family wants to sue for wrongful death, the defendant could use this as a defense.


A.   Here, I think Xís act of jumping into the water was caused by Dís shooting, and thus D is the proximate cause for Vís death.

B.    Here, D is not the proximate cause of V2ís death because the result was mere coincidence rather than a response to Dís actions.

C.   Xís shooting at V was a response to Dís shooting at V, and thus D is the proximate cause of the death of V.

6.          It doesnít seem like this should relieve the defendants of their liability because the nature of their actions has not changed and the ultimate result is not changed.It doesnít seem like they should get off just because they were lucky enough that Stafford had a malevolent brother who just happened to come along to not help Stafford.

7.          Using the analysis in Kibbe, I believe that M was the proximate cause because Yís giving the poison to V was a response to Mís buying the poison and leaving it around the house.

8.          Under Kibbe, I believe P would have been found to be a proximate cause of Vís death because her traveling to her parentsí house was a response to Pís violent behavior.The doctrine of contributory negligence would hold that Vís choice to fall asleep outside in freezing weather may lessen the chance that P caused Vís death.On the other hand, since P apparently wished to kill V, the doctrine of intended consequences suggests that since P got what he wanted, he caused it to happen.The safety that is described here must be safety from the defendant rather than safety in general.I tend to side with the doctrine of intended consequences and thus I would disagree with the result in this case.I donít think it would make a difference whether or not P was searching for V, but I think it would matter whether Pís threat was genuine, although it would be difficult to know.The wife batterer aspect could go either way: you could say that it showed he was regularly violent towards his wife and thus it was more likely he truly intended to kill her, but on the other hand, you might argue that if he was going to kill her he would have done so already, and, though itís despicable, that what he really likes is just to beat her up.

9.          Freedom of action is a key principle of retributivism.It is considered right to punish someone who had some bad intent and by their free choice caused some harm.If it was really someone elseís free act that caused the harm, we wonít hold the former person accountable.Under this doctrine, I believe Preslar could be decided differently if Vís act was not seen as ďfreeĒ, but rather compelled by Pís actions.

10.      The Model Penal Code seems to remove the idea of proximate cause, and only uses ďbut forĒ plus culpability.It says it doesnít matter if you intended to cause harm to a different person, or intended to cause more harm (but not less) than actually occurred.It also doesnít matter if your intended result happened differently than you intended it to, so long as the actual result wasnít a coincidence or an accident.


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