Causality and Liability in Law

Dissertation project: The Function of Causality for the Ascription of Liability in Law

(Magdalena Zietek, M.A.)

The primary goal of our research on the legal understanding of causality and liability is the development of a uniform concept of causation adequate for the natural and engineering sciences as well as for legal purposes and jurisprudence. However, as the controversy about causation in the law over the last 200 years has shown, the criteria for asserting the existence of a causal link between action and outcome have proven to be highly elusive and are difficult to harmonise with widespread intuitions about responsibility and liability. In order to clarify the link between causation and liability, we shall compare and evaluate the leading legal theories of causation. Moreover, in attempt to determine the reasons for the seemingly never-ending controversy about causation in the law, major emphasis will be put on questions of methodology and the development of criteria of adequacy for legal theories of causation. This involves highlighting the normative background of the legal notion of causation. A serious attempt will be made to determine the function and purpose of the notion of a cause in our practical and normative deliberations about responsibility. Special emphasis will be put on possible conceptual connections of causation with the violation of individual rights.