The Doctrine of Proximate Cause in Insurance
S J Tubrazy
it was settled in the insurance law, that the cause of a loss is that which is the effective or dominant cause of the occurrence or as it is sometimes put, that which is in substance the cause even though it is more remote in point of time, such cause is to be determined by common sense.
Halsbury’s Laws of England Fourth Edition (Vol. 25). In para 617 it is stated “a policy of insurance is intended to protect the assured against loss caused by fire. If a fire results the policy is plainly applicable unless an exception became operative.” Para 618 provides, that there is no fire within the meaning of a fire insurance policy unless there is ignition, either of the property insured or of the premises, where it is situated. Under para 619 the cause of fire is normally considered immaterial, unless, it arose from an exceptional peril, or was lit by the assured for the purpose of destroying property insured. Para 621 provides, that where a fire, which causes a loss, is itself caused by a peril expressly excluded by an exception clause in the policy, the assured cannot recover. Para 629 requires the loss should be caused by fire. Under para 630 losses which are not proximately, but only remotely caused by fire are not covered by an ordinary fire policy. Para 631 describes proximate cause as bass of exception. It is stated therein as under:‑
“The doctrine of proximate cause is applied for the purpose of determining whether a loss is caused by an excepted peril. If property is not burned at all, but is destroyed by the direct operation of an excepted peril as for instance, by the concussion of an explosion, the explosion is the proximate cause of the loss and it is immaterial that the explosion was itself caused by fire. If the subject‑matter is burned, but the fire which burned it derived its origin from an excepted peril, the liability of the insurers depends upon whether the excepted peril is to be regarded as proximate cause of the loss or not. Where the fire is the natural consequence, of the excepted peril the excepted peril is the proximate cause of the loss.
On the other hand, where the fire is not the natural but merely an accidental consequence of the excepted peril the proximate cause of the loss is the fire, the excepted peril being the remote cause only, and the loss is, therefore, covered by the policy.”