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Civ. Law. This word has two meanings. 1. It signifies the delivery of the thing, or the accomplishment of the act which is the object of a convention. 2. It is the consideration or motive for making a contract. An obligation without a cause, or with a false or unlawful cause, has no effect; but an engagement is not the less valid, though the cause be not expressed. The cause is illicit, when it is forbidden by law, when it is contra bones mores, or public order.
Torts, Crim. That which produces an effect.
In considering a contract, an injury, or a crime the law for many purposes looks to the immediate and not to any remote cause. If the cause be lawful, the party will be justified; if unlawful, he will be condemned. The following is an example in criminal law of an immediate and remote cause. If Peter, of malice prepense, should discharge a pistol at Paul, and miss him, and then cast away the pistol and fly and, being pursued by Paul, he turn round, and kill him with a dagger, the law considers the first as the impulsive cause and Peter would be guilty of murder. But if Peter, with his dagger drawn had fallen down, and Paul in his haste had fallen upon it and killed himself, the cause of Paul's death would have been too remote to charge Peter as the murderer.
In cases of insurance, the general rule is that the immediate and not the remote cause of the loss is to be considered; causa proximo non remota spedatur. This rule may, in some cases, apply to carriers.
For the breach of contracts, the contractor is liable for the immediate effects of such breach, but not for any remote cause, as the failure of a party who was to receive money and did not receive it, in consequence of which he was compelled to stop payment.
Pleading. The reason; the motive.
In a replication de injuria, for example, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant of his own wrong, and without the cause by him in his plea alleged, did, etc. The word cause here means without the matter of excuse alleged, and though in the singular number, it puts in issue all the facts in the plea, which constitute but one cause.
Practice. A contested question before a court of justice; it is a Suit or action. Causes are civil or criminal.