Causation and the ‘mountaineering example’

This is simply a pop-reference to the ordinary ‘but-for’ test.

In Wallace v Kam [2013] HCA 19 the  High Court considered a ‘failure to warn’ negligence case involving a doctor who did not warn the patient of all of the risks of a particular procedure.  The patient was injured by a reason other than the risks which the doctor did not warn.

In the judgment the Court said:

A useful example, often repeated, is that of a mountaineer who is negligently advised by a doctor that his knee is fit to make a difficult climb and who then makes the climb, which he would not have made if properly advised about his knee, only to be injured in an avalanche. His injury is a “foreseeable consequence of mountaineering but has nothing to do with his knee”.

The example was first used in Banque Bruxelles Lambert SA v Eagle Star Insurance Co Ltd [1996] UKHL 10; [1997] AC 191 at 213.