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It has always been the law of Minnesota that parties whose negligence concurs to cause injury are jointly and severally liable although not acting in concert. This common-law rule has been incorporated into our comparative negligence statute, which states, when there are two or more persons who are jointly liable, contributions to awards shall be in proportion to the percentage of negligence attributable to each, provided, however, that each shall remain jointly and severally liable for the whole award, Minn. Stat. § 604.01, subd. 1 (1976). The court has consistently applied Minn. Stat. § 604.01 to hold each defendant liable for a plaintiff's total recoverable damages even when a jury finds that defendant only partially at fault. The defendants' remedy is contribution from codefendants in accordance with the jury's apportionment of fault.
Plaintiff Donna Maday was injured when the taxi in which she was a passenger collided with a driver's car. The driver had no liability insurance at the time of the accident, and therefore, the wife pursued an uninsured motorist claim against their insurer. The jury determined that both the taxi company and the driver were negligent, that such negligence was a direct cause of the accident, and that the taxi company was 30 percent and the driver 70 percent negligent in causing the accident. The trial court ordered the taxi company liable for only 30 percent of the total damages. The plaintiff and her husband challenged the decision. The taxi company filed a notice of review for that portion of the order denying its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial.
Under the circumstances, was the taxi company liable for only 30 percent of the total damages?
The court held that because the combined negligence of two drivers resulted in a collision, it was not possible to determine which damages were caused specifically by which negligent act. The court held that because the "single divisible injury" exception is inapplicable, the general rule governed and conclude that the taxi company was liable for the entire damages under the general joint and several liability rule. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and affirmed in part.