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used the substantial factor test to do an increasing variety of things it was never intended to do and for which it is not appropriate.
In nearly all of these cases, the courts conceive of the test as an instantiation of the Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 431's substantial factor test of causation.
Misused in this way, the substantial factor test "undermines the principles of comparative negligence, under which a party is responsible for his or her share of negligence and the harm caused thereby.
Significantly, however, the Rutherford opinion contains strong indications that these other exposures, too, would meet the substantial factor test as it is understood in California.
The uncertainty surrounding the substantial factor test arises because the term has been used in many ways, only some of which were intended by the Second Restatement.
80) Sometimes when courts say they are using a substantial factor test in this situation, they then proceed to provide a definition of substantial factor that is the same as the but-for test.
As we have seen, the only multiple causation cases that are legitimately solved by the substantial factor test are the "combined force" situations in which we are morally certain that the but-for test stubbornly persists in yielding the wrong answer.
The second situation in which the Second Restatement envisions a separate role for the substantial factor test is where but-for causes are sufficiently trivial that they should be ignored:
Comment a makes it clear that this second use of the substantial factor test is not intended to expand causation where the but-for test is unsatisfied.
Like foreseeability, however, the substantial factor test can easily be misapplied.
The substantial factor test can be illustrated by a small, easily controlled fire that joins a second larger fire and ultimately burns down a house.
The substantial factor test allows the court to decide, as a matter of law, the issue of proximate cause.