Fugere v. Pierce

490 P.2d 132

 

RULE:

Under the “single indivisible injury rule,” a defendant may be held jointly and severally liable for all of a plaintiff’s injuries if the injuries are “indivisible” and the liability among the defendants cannot be allocated with reasonable certainty.

FACTS:

The plaintiff sued for personal injury resulting from a three-car collision. During the accident, the plaintiff’s car was struck first by an oncoming car, which threw her sideways. About 1-3 seconds later, her was struck again on the left side by defendant’s car.   The plaintiff’s physician testified that her injuries were of the type that would go with a severe blow to the abdomen, such as what would occur in a car crash.

ISSUE:

Is a defendant jointly and severally liable for all of a plaintiff’s injuries, if those injuries are indivisible and the liability among the defendants cannot be allocated with reasonable certainty?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

Certain injuries, by their very nature, are incapable of any logical and reasonable apportionment. Under the “single indivisible injury rule,” the defendant in this case may be held jointly and severally liable for all of the plaintiff’s injuries if the injuries are “indivisible” and the liability among the various actors cannot be allocated with reasonable certainty. Any defendant seeking to limit his liability has the burden of proving that plaintiff’s injuries can be apportioned. If the defendant can produce substantial evidence that the plaintiff’s injuries are capable of logical and reasonable apportionment, then the jury will apportion the damages to each defendant. In the present case, it is impossible to determine which collision caused which of the plaintiff’s injuries. Thus, because the defendant has not sustained his burden, he will be liable for all of the damages proximately caused by the three-car collision.

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