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but for rule

n. one of several tests to determine if a defendant is responsible for a particular happening. In this test, was there any other cause, or would it have occurred "but for" the defendant's actions? Example: "But for" defendant Drivewild's speeding, the car would not have gone out of control, and therefore the defendant is responsible. This is shorthand for whether the action was the "proximate cause" of the damage.

See also: proximate cause 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications