Exxon Co., U. S. A. v. Sofec, Inc., 517 U.S. 830, 7 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

on its breach of warranty claims. "Where, as here, the district court finds the injured party to be the superseding or sole proximate cause of the damage complained of, it cannot recover from a party whose actions or omissions are deemed to be causes in fact, but not legal causes of the damage." Id., at 576. Finally, the court held that under the circumstances of the case, the District Court's bifurcation of the trial was not an abuse of discretion. We granted certiorari. 516 U. S. 983 (1995).


Exxon makes four arguments for the reversal of the judgment below: (1) that the superseding cause doctrine does not or should not apply in admiralty; (2) that respondents' breaches of warranty were causes in fact of the loss of the Houston and hence respondents should be liable for that loss; (3) that the lower courts' finding that Captain Coyne's extraordinary negligence was the sole proximate cause of the loss of the Houston was in error; and (4) that the District Court abused its discretion and deprived Exxon of due process in bifurcating the issue of proximate causation from the other issues.


Exxon's primary argument is that the proximate causation requirement, and the related superseding cause doctrine, are not or should not be applicable in admiralty. In particular, Exxon asserts that the lower courts' refusal to allocate any share of damages to parties whose fault was a cause in fact of Exxon's injury conflicts with our decision in Reliable Transfer.

We disagree. In Reliable Transfer, we discarded a longstanding rule that property damages in admiralty cases are to be divided equally between those liable for injury, "whatever the relative degree of their fault may have been," 421 U. S., at 397, and adopted the comparative fault principle in

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