Proximate Cause Meets Murphy’s Law: Man Fatally Stabs Himself Fleeing Grill Accident

In common law torts, liability is often cut off by unforeseeable changes or superseding intervening forces. Michael Downing of South Carolina demonstrated this legal principle in a tragic way. Burned on the grill, he stabbed himself in the chest when he jumped back from the accident.

In torts, we often look for a change in harm as one of those factors of proximate cause that can cut off the chain of causation. While it is not seem that there was any design defect on the grill, Downings death shows how one injury can factually cause another but not be the legal causation. After burning his hand on the grill, Downing appears to have moved away while holding a knife. He fell on the knife and died later of a chest wound.

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