Exxon Co., U. S. A. v. Sofec, Inc., 517 U.S. 830, 9 (1996)

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838

EXXON CO., U. S. A. v. SOFEC, INC.

Opinion of the Court

mate causation." 1 T. Schoenbaum, Admiralty and Maritime Law 5-3, pp. 165-166 (2d ed. 1994).

Indeed, the HIRI respondents assert that of the 46 States that have adopted a comparative fault system, at least 44 continue to recognize and apply the superseding cause doctrine. Brief for HIRI Respondents 28, and n. 31; id., at App. A (listing state-court decisions). Exxon does not take issue with this assertion and concedes that it is not aware of any state decision that holds otherwise. Tr. of Oral Arg. 10.

Exxon also argues that we should in any event eschew in the admiralty context the "confusing maze of common-law proximate cause concepts"; a system in which damages are allocated based upon the degree of comparative fault of any party whose act was a cause in fact of injury is "fairer and simpler," it says. Reply Brief for Petitioners 2. It is true that commentators have often lamented the degree of disagreement regarding the principles of proximate causation and confusion in the doctrine's application, see, e. g., Keeton 263, but it is also true that proximate causation principles are generally thought to be a necessary limitation on liability, see, e. g., id., at 264, 293, 294, 312. Indeed, the system Exxon apparently proposes either would let proximate causation principles, with all of their complexity, creep back in as one factor in the "comparative fault" analysis itself, see n. 2, supra, or would produce extreme results. "In a philosophical sense, the consequences of an act go forward to eternity, and the causes of an event go back to the dawn of human events, and beyond." Keeton 264. Nevertheless,

"the careless actor will [not] always be held for all damages for which the forces that he risked were a cause in fact. Somewhere a point will be reached when courts will agree that the link has become too tenuous—that what is claimed to be consequence is only fortuity. Thus, if the [negligent] destruction of the Michigan Avenue Bridge had delayed the arrival of a doctor, with con-

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