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What To Know About Causation And Civil RICO Claims


Through a civil racketeering lawsuit, a plaintiff can hold a defendant liable for three times the actual losses sustained due to a civil RICO violation. However, establishing liability in a civil racketeering case is never easy. There is a high bar that plaintiffs need to clear. One of the most important elements of bringing a successful civil RICO lawsuit is proving causation. Here, our Miami RICO claims lawyers highlight the key things that you need to know about causation in a civil RICO lawsuit.

Background: Causation is a Required Element of Liability

 As a starting point, it is important to emphasize that causation is a required element of liability in many different types of civil lawsuits—including in civil racketeering claims. You cannot hold a defendant legally responsible for your losses through a civil RICO lawsuit unless you can prove that their illicit racketeering activity was the cause of your losses. Causation is necessary but not sufficient to establish liability in a civil RICO lawsuit.

 Federal and State Courts: Factual and Proximate Causation Both Required 

There is a federal civil RICO statute and a Florida state civil RICO statute. Under both federal law and state law, courts have held that plaintiffs in a civil racketeering claim must prove both factual causation and proximate causation. In other words, a plaintiff in a civil RICO claim needs to establish that the defendant’s racketeering activity is both an actual cause (but for cause) and a legal proximate cause.

 Understanding the Concept of Proximate Cause in a Civil RICO Lawsuit

Proximate causation is a highly technical legal concept that is not always well understood. The Legal Information Institute defines a proximate cause as “an actual cause that is also legally sufficient to support liability.” Not all “actual” causes are proximate causes. Here is a simple example: Imagine that a friend of yours showed you an advertisement for a local business. You hire the business for a service only to get defrauded—likely through racketeering activity. Your friend had no reason to know that the business was anything but legitimate.

Technically, your friend’s act of showing you the advertisement is an “actual” cause of your losses. You would not have been defrauded had that not occurred. At the same time, your friend bears no liability. There is no proximate causation. Their act is not legally sufficient to support a finding of civil RICO liability. To prove causation in a civil RICO case, you must prove that the defendant engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity as part of an enterprise that caused your losses.

Get Help From Our Florida Civil RICO Lawyer Today

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our commercial litigation law firm has the specialized legal expertise to represent clients in civil RICO claims. If you have any specific questions or concerns about proximate causation in a civil racketeering dispute, we can help. Call us now to set up a fully private consultation with a top-rated attorney. From our legal offices in Miami, West Palm Beach, and Wellington, our attorneys handle civil racketeering claims throughout South Florida.

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