Why The Oropesa is important
The Oropesa is an example of a case where the subsequent act of another person did not break the chain of causation from the negligent act. It highlights that a person is still the legal cause for loss even when it occurs due to a person’s response to the negligent act.
The Oropesa and Manchester Regiment were involved in jointly-culpable negligent collision. The latter was so damaged the crew were forced into the lifeboats, and they headed to the Oropesa. However, heavy seas caused a boat to capsize, and 9 men drowned.
Relatives of the drowned seamen sued the owner of the Oropesa. The Oropesa’s captain argued they were not lable because the decision to board the lifeboats broke the chain of causation.
Rejecting the defendant’s claim, the Court held that the Oropesa’s captain was liable for the deaths of the seamen.
The Court concluded that the decision to board the lifeboats was a natural consequence of the Oropesa’s negligence. The decision by the captain of the Manchester Regiment was made in response to, rather than separate from, the negligent collision. Therefore, there was not a big enough intervention to break the chain of causation, and the claim was upheld.
In the words of Lord Wright,
To break the chain of causation it must be shown that there is something which I will call ultroneous, something unwarrantable, a new cause which disturbs the sequence of events, something which can be described as either unreasonable or extraneous or extrinsic