X sells Y unlawful narcotics which are so powerful that it can cause severe coughing and cold-like symptoms., The danger is that the narcotics when combined with even a small amount of alcohol can induce drowsiness. Y after taking the narcotics develops has cold-like symptoms and takes cough medicine containing trace amounts of alcohol. Y gets behind the wheel of the family car and while under the combined influence of narcotics/alcohol, Y falls asleep at the wheel and drives off the road and is killed.. Is X liable for causing Y’s death? State the law and explain answer. Explain whether your answer would be different if Y did not die in the car crash and only died in the hospital when a storm knocked out the power grid resulting in the shutdown of Y’s respirator causing Y’s death ***** In answering this question apply your knowledge of causality and address *****cause in fact, proximate cause, coincidental intervening cause, responsive intervening cause.

  • I have changed the tags as the question does not implicate criminal law at all. The question does not specify whose law applies and this is highly pertinent to the answer.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 27, 2017 at 10:58

1 Answer 1


In Australia, X is not liable in either situation. By buying/selling illegal narcotics X & Y engaged in a joint criminal enterprise. Australian courts have held that joint criminals do not have a duty of care to one another and are therefore not liable for the tort of negligence. As the contract is for an unlawful purpose there is no contract law liability either.

Assuming that X was a pharmacist supplying a legal drug and did not advise (and the drug packaging failed to advise) Y not to drive. X has liability in the first case as a tort and a breach of contract. X does not have liability for Y's death in the case of failure of the hospital's power supply as the event is too remote (not reasonably foreseeable).

  • For comparison, some US courts are convicting drug dealers of involuntary manslaughter when their (criminal) customers die of an opioid overdose.
    – Upnorth
    Sep 27, 2017 at 19:24
  • @Upnorth criminal liability is distinct from civil liability
    – Dale M
    Sep 27, 2017 at 20:12
  • DaleM I agree, thanks! It's good to know that such things haven't changed in the 45 years since I first studied the law.
    – Upnorth
    Sep 28, 2017 at 4:38

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