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Name: People v. Brady
Case #: A102620
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 06/02/2005
Subsequent History: rehng. den. 7/5/05; rvw. den. 9/7/05

Intervening acts by the victim that may have contributed to his death did not absolve the defendant of responsibility for that death where the events were foreseeable. The defendant was convicted of recklessly starting a fire that caused the deaths of two CDF pilots whose planes collided as they were fighting a fire started at defendant’s methamphetamine lab. On appeal, the defendant argued that the jury instructions and the exclusion of evidence regarding one pilot’s possible culpability in the accident prevented the jury from properly determining whether defendant’s acts proximately caused the deaths of the pilots. The court held that a defendant whose conduct was a proximate cause of harm is not absolved of responsibility by another person’s intervening conduct that is also a substantial or contributing factor. The intervening act of another will only absolve the defendant of responsibility if the conduct of the other person was both unforeseeable itself and resulted in harm that was likewise an unforeseeable consequence of the defendant’s original conduct. The appellate court held that the trial court was not required to provide a sua sponte instruction defining the word “disconnected,” as the ordinary meaning of that term is consistent with its meaning in terms of proximate causation and intervening acts. Furthermore, the trial court did not err in excluding evidence regarding one pilot’s blood alcohol level, his failure to comply with aviation regulations, or possible physical incapacitation, because none of those of those circumstances amounted to an extraordinary and abnormal circumstance that would have negated defendant’s acts as a proximate cause of the accident. Finally, the court did not err in excluding proffered evidence of negligence in the maintenance of the airplane, because defendant’s proposed evidence was purely speculative.