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The FindLaw Legal Dictionary -- free access to over 8260 definitions of legal terms. Search for a definition or browse our legal glossaries.



cause n

1 : something that brings about an effect or result [the negligent act which was the of the plaintiff's injury] NOTE: The cause of an injury must be proven in both tort and criminal cases.

actual cause
: cause in fact in this entry

but-for cause
: cause in fact in this entry

cause in fact
: a cause without which the result would not have occurred called also actual cause but-for cause

concurrent cause
: a cause that joins simultaneously with another cause to produce a result called also concurring cause compare intervening cause and superseding cause in this entry

di·rect cause
: proximate cause in this entry

ef·fi·cient in·ter·ven·ing cause
: superseding cause in this entry

intervening cause
1 : an independent cause that follows another cause in time in producing the result but does not interrupt the chain of causation if foreseeable called also supervening cause compare concurrent cause and superseding cause in this entry
2 : superseding cause in this entry

legal cause
: proximate cause in this entry

procuring cause
: one (as a broker) that sets in motion a continuous series of events culminating esp. in the sale or leasing of real estate [entitled to a commission as the procuring cause of the sale even though the listing had expired]

pro·duc·ing cause
: an efficient, exciting, or contributing cause (as an act, practice, or event) that produces an injury which would not have occurred without it [claimed that the workplace accident was a producing cause of his disability] used esp. in workers' compensation and consumer protection cases NOTE: A producing cause lacks the element of foreseeability associated with a proximate cause, being more exclusively concerned with causation in fact.

proximate cause
: a cause that sets in motion a sequence of events uninterrupted by any superseding causes and that results in a usually foreseeable effect (as an injury) which would not otherwise have occurred called also direct cause legal cause see also Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. in the Important Cases section compare remote cause in this entry

re·mote cause
: a cause that is followed by a superseding cause interrupting the chain of causation
: a cause that in ordinary experience does not lead to a particular effect compare proximate cause in this entry

su·per·sed·ing cause
: an unforeseeable intervening cause that interrupts the chain of causation and becomes the proximate cause of the effect called also efficient intervening cause intervening cause compare concurrent cause and intervening cause in this entry

supervening cause
: intervening cause in this entry
2 : a reason or justification for an action or state (as belief): as
a : good cause in this entry [an appeal dismissed for ]
b : just cause in this entry [behavior that constitutes to terminate an employee] NOTE: The circumstances under which cause, good cause, just cause, probable cause, reasonable cause, or sufficient cause exists are determined on a case by case basis. These terms are often used interchangeably, and the distinctions between them are sometimes unclear.

good cause
: a substantial reason put forth in good faith that is not unreasonable, arbitrary, or irrational and that is sufficient to create an excuse for an act under the law [unable to show good cause for failure to pay child support] [neglect of duty is good cause for removal of a trustee]

just cause
1 : cause that a person of ordinary intelligence would consider a fair and reasonable justification for an act used esp. in cases involving termination of employment and denial of unemployment benefits
2 : good cause in this entry

prob··a·ble cause
[prÄ -bə-bəl-]
1 : a reasonable ground in fact and circumstance for a belief in the existence of certain circumstances (as that an offense has been or is being committed, that a person is guilty of an offense, that a particular search will uncover contraband, that an item to be seized is in a particular place, or that a specific fact or cause of action exists) [when supported by probable cause, warrantless search of vehicle may extend to every part of vehicle where objects of search might be concealed "State v. Nixon, 593 N.E.2d 1210 (1992)"] called also reasonable cause sufficient cause compare reasonable suspicion NOTE: The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stipulates that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” Probable cause is also required for a warrantless arrest. Probable cause is an objective standard rather than a function of subjective opinion or suspicion not grounded in fact or circumstance. However, the facts or circumstances need not be of the nature of certainty necessary to establish proof in court.
2 : justification for an administrative search based on a showing that it is to be conducted in accordance with standardized nonarbitrary regulatory procedures designed to further public interest in regulatory enforcement that outweighs the intrusiveness of the search

reasonable cause
1 : probable cause in this entry
: a fact or circumstance that justifies a reasonable suspicion compare reasonable suspicion
2 : a reason that would motivate a person of ordinary intelligence under the circumstances [reasonable cause to believe abuse had occurred]
3 : something (as an event or the exercise of ordinary care or prudence) that excuses or justifies failure to file a tax return on time

suf·fi·cient cause
: cause that is deemed enough to provide an excuse under the law: as
a : good cause in this entry often used in the phrase good and sufficient cause
b : probable cause in this entry
3 a : a ground of a legal action [tortious conduct is not a of divorce embraced within the statutory cause of cruel and inhuman treatment "Case & Comment"]
b : case [questions of law…determinative of the then pending "R. T. Gerwatowski"]
4 in the civil law of Louisiana
: the reason for making a contract compare frustration NOTE: Under the Louisiana Civil Code, if a contract's cause is illicit or immoral, the contract is absolutely null. If the cause fails after the contract is made (as when a leased building cannot be occupied because of a fire), the contract may either be not enforced or only partially enforced.
vt caused
1 : to serve as the cause of [the scales struck the plaintiff causing injuries for which she sues "Palsgraf v. Long Island R.R. Co., 162 N.E.99 (1928)"]
2 : to effect by command, authority, or force [the administrator shall an investigation to be made]

Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©1996. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

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