Words mean things — but what?

“The term ‘proximate cause’ is applied by the courts to those more or less undefined considerations which limit liability even where the fact of causation is clearly established. The word ‘proximate’ is a legacy of Lord Chancellor Bacon, who in his time committed other sins. The word means nothing more than near or immediate; and when it was first taken up by the courts it had connotations of proximity in time and space which have long since disappeared. It is an unfortunate word, which places an entirely wrong emphasis upon the factor of physical or mechanical closeness. For this reason ‘legal cause’ or perhaps even ‘responsible cause’ would be a more appropriate term.” – William Prosser, Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts

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