CALCRIM No. 620. Causation: Special Issues
Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2020 edition)Download PDF
H. CAUSATION: SPECIAL ISSUES
620.Causation: Special Issues
There may be more than one cause of death. An act causes death only if
it is a substantial factor in causing the death. A substantial factor is more
than a trivial or remote factor. However, it does not need to be the only
factor that causes the death.
<A. Negligence of Decedent or Third Party, Not Medical Personnel>
[The failure of <insert name of decedent> or another person
to use reasonable care may have contributed to the death. But if the
defendant’s act was a substantial factor causing the death, then the
defendant is legally responsible for the death even though
<insert name of decedent> or another person may have failed to use
<B. Negligence of Medical Personnel>
[The failure of the (doctor(s)/ [or] medical staff) to use reasonable care in
treating <insert name of decedent> may have contributed to
the death. But if the injury inflicted by the defendant was a substantial
factor causing the death, then the defendant is legally responsible for the
death even though the (doctor[s]/ [or] medical staff) may have failed to
use reasonable care. On the other hand, if the injury inflicted by the
defendant was not a substantial factor causing the death, but the death
was caused by grossly improper treatment by the (doctor[s]/[or] medical
staff), then the defendant is not legally responsible for the death.]
<C. Vulnerable Victim - Injury Accelerating Death>
[<insert name of decedent> may have suffered from an
illness or physical condition that made (him/her) more likely to die from
the injury than the average person. The fact that <insert
name of decedent> may have been more physically vulnerable is not a
defense to (murder/ [or] manslaughter). If the defendant’s act was a
substantial factor causing the death, then the defendant is legally
responsible for the death. This is true even if <insert name
of decedent> would have died in a short time as a result of other causes
or if another person of average health would not have died as a result of
the defendant’s actions.]
If you have a reasonable doubt whether the defendant’s act caused the
death, you must find (him/her) not guilty.
New January 2006
If causation is at issue, the court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on proximate
cause. (People v. Bernhardt (1963) 222 Cal.App.2d 567, 590-591 [35 Cal.Rptr.
• Negligence of Third Party. People v. Clark (1951) 106 Cal.App.2d 271,
277-278 [235 P.2d 56]; People v. Pike (1988) 197 Cal.App.3d 732, 746-747
[243 Cal.Rptr. 54].
• Negligence of Medical Staff. People v. McGee (1947) 31 Cal.2d 229, 240-241
[187 P.2d 706]; People v. Roberts (1992) 2 Cal.4th 271, 312 [6 Cal.Rptr.2d 276,
826 P.2d 274].
• Vulnerable Victim. People v. Catlin (2001) 26 Cal.4th 81, 155-157 [109
Cal.Rptr.2d 31, 26 P.3d 357]; People v. Phillips (1966) 64 Cal.2d 574, 579 [51
Cal.Rptr. 225, 414 P.2d 353], disapproved on other grounds in People v. Flood
(1998) 18 Cal.4th 470, 490, fn. 12 [76 Cal.Rptr.2d 180, 957 P.2d 869]; People v.
Stamp (1969) 2 Cal.App.3d 203, 209 [82 Cal.Rptr. 598].
1 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Elements, §§ 39, 40,
621-624. Reserved for Future Use
CALCRIM No. 620 HOMICIDE