I recently found the following tongue-in-cheek newspaper article posted on a social media site:
Alcohol & Fats
It’s a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting medical studies. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.
Putting aside the obvious humour and issues of logic, the author raises the interesting issues of the (legal) interaction between fault, responsibility, causation and liability. Does the conclusion allow us to sue English teachers for the health risks associated with their lessons? (Perhaps U.S.-based colleagues will even consider starting a class action.) Of course not. Even if you accept the faulty logic, just remind yourself that causation, blame, fault, liability and responsibility are very different concepts.
So it is that in contracts we must select our words very carefully. The concepts of blame, fault and responsibility are frequently confused in everyday language and are often treated as synonyms. Indeed, in contract wording I do read references to “damage caused by a party”, “damage which is the fault of a party”, “the party responsible for damage ” or, “the party to which the damage is attributable.” Such wording is often used interchageably, as if all mean the same. Even “the party to be blamed” has popped up in one translated document recently as a supposed expressiom of liability. Be careful. These types of phrases, if not used preceisely, can cause major issues of interpretation and liability. This is particularly true in the strict liability (no fault) world of Common Law.
For legal drafting purposes remember: fault is not the same as default and responsibility does not always mean liability. “Who’s at fault?” may not always be as critical as “which party is liable?“