Exxon Co., U. S. A. v. Sofec, Inc., 517 U.S. 830, 11 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

times receive labels in contract analysis different from the "proximate causation" label most frequently employed in tort analysis, these principles nevertheless exist to restrict liability in contract as well. Indeed, the requirement of foreseeability may be more stringent in the context of contract liability than it is in the context of tort liability. See East River S. S. Corp. v. Transamerica Delaval Inc., 476 U. S. 858, 874-875 (1986); Restatement (Second) of Contracts 351 and Comment a, pp. 135-136 (1979); 11 W. Jaeger, Williston on Contracts 1344, pp. 227-228 (3d ed. 1968); 5 A. Corbin, Corbin on Contracts 1008, pp. 75-76 (1964); id., 1019, at 113-116; cf. 3 E. Farnsworth, Contracts 12.14, pp. 241-243 (1990) (Hadley v. Baxendale, 9 Ex. 341, 156 Eng. Rep. 145 (1854), "impose[s] a more severe limitation on the recovery of damages for breach of contract than that applicable to actions in tort or for breach of warranty, in which substantial or proximate cause is the test"). The finding that Captain Coyne's extraordinary negligence was the sole proximate cause of Exxon's injury suffices to cut off respondents' liability for that injury on a contractual breach of warranty theory as well.


The legal question that we took this case to address is whether a plaintiff in admiralty that is the superseding and thus the sole proximate cause of its own injury can recover part of its damages from tortfeasors or contracting partners whose blameworthy actions or breaches were causes in fact of the plaintiff's injury. As we have held above, the answer is that it may not. Apparently anticipating that this legal issue would not likely be resolved in its favor, Exxon devotes a large portion of its briefs to arguing that the findings by the lower courts that Captain Coyne's extraordinary negligence was the sole proximate cause of Exxon's injury were in error. The issues of proximate causation and superseding cause involve application of law to fact, which is left to the

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