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Walt Disney World Co. v. Wood - 515 So. 2d 198 (Fla. 1987)

Rule:

The viability of the doctrine of joint and several liability is a matter which should best be decided by the legislature.

Facts:

Plaintiff Aloysia Wood was injured in Nov. 1971 at an attraction located within a theme park operated by defendant at Walt Disney World Co. ("Disney"). Wood's then-fiancé, Daniel Wood, rammed from the rear the vehicle that Aloysia was driving. Aloysia filed a negligence action against Disney in Florida state court seeking to recover damages for her injuries. Disney sought contribution from Daniel. After trial, the jury returned a verdict finding Aloysia 14 percent at fault, Daniel 85 percent at fault, and Disney 1 percent at fault. The jury assessed Aloysia's damages at $ 75,000. The court entered judgment against Disney for 86 percent of the damages. Disney subsequently filed a motion to alter the judgment to reflect the jury's finding that Disney was only 1 percent at fault. The court denied the motion. On appeal, the fourth district affirmed the trial court's judgment. Disney appealed.

Issue:

Was Disney liable for the largest percentage of Aloysia's damages?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The state supreme court answered the certified question in the affirmative and affirmed the court of appeal's decision. The court noted that § 738.31, Florida Statutes (1975), provided for contribution among joint tortfeasors, and the statute retained the full, joint, and several liability of joint tortfeasors to the plaintiff. As such, in a case such as the present case, a plaintiff was entitled to a measurement of his full damages and the liability for these damages should be apportioned in accordance with the percentage of negligence as it related to the total of all the defendants. The negligence attributed to the defendants would then be apportioned on a pro rata basis without considering relative degrees of fault although the multiparty defendants would remain jointly and severally liable for the entire amount. Thus, Disney was properly held liable for the largest percentage of Aloysia's damages. The observed that in view of the public policy considerations bearing on the issue, the viability of the joint and several liability doctrine was a matter that should best be decided by the legislature.

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