YEAR 2015 N.º 2

ISSN 2182-9845

Multiple causes and uncertainty over causation

Renato Lovato Neto


Alternative causation; Joint liability; Market share liability; Partial liability


The doctrine of alternative causation, of German and Austrian origin, intends to ensure the repair when a victim suffers an injury and the true cause remains unknown. This may occur either because the potentially harmful factor comes from a certain group of people, but it is not known which of the agents did it, or when there is a set of equal conduits moved at the same time or a plurality of potential causes (including facts of nature) where all have power to cause the observed injury, but one cannot be established which of them was. Therefore, the alternative causality has its defined scope to cover cases where there is lack of knowledge about the authorship of the harmful conduct within a particular group of people, where certainly one caused the injury, but it is unknown who did it. It’s also applied when it is impossible to set the causal relationship between two or more possible perpetrators or factors of nature, identified or not, or in cases of market share liability.

The liability for the abnormal functioning of services provided by the Public Administration solves the problem of uncertainty about the causal link in the plurality of potential causes in subordination relationships involving its agents. The alternative causation aims to address the problem of the uncertainty of causation where there is multiple only-potential causes. The paper discusses the adequacy of the possible solutions, namely the partial responsibility and the joint liability.