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Review Your SQE 1 Practice Records

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Baby Emily was rushed to St. Mary's Hospital suffering from meningitis. At the hospital, she was negligently prescribed an excessive dose of penicillin. Shortly after, Emily became deaf. It is unclear whether the meningitis or the penicillin overdose was responsible for her deafness. Which is the appropriate causation test to be used?

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In cases where there are potentially multiple independent causes of harm, the appropriate test for causation is the "balance of probabilities" test. This means that the claimant must demonstrate that it is more likely than not (greater than 50% chance) that the defendant's negligence caused the harm. The "but-for" test (Option A) is more suitable when there is a single independent cause. The material contribution test (Option B) applies when there are multiple cumulative causes contributing to the harm. In this scenario, since either the meningitis or the penicillin could have independently caused the deafness, the balance of probabilities is the correct test. The consequential losses test (Option D) and acts of a third party (Option E) are not applicable in determining factual causation in this context. 

Key Point: The balance of probabilities test is used to establish causation when there are potentially multiple independent causes of harm, requiring proof that the defendant's actions more likely than not caused the injury.

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