Jensen v. Intermountain Health Care

679 P.2d 903

 

RULE:

Joint tortfeasors are liable for contribution without regard to their degree of negligence unless there is such a disproportion of fault that it would be inequitable for there to be an equal distribution by contribution among them of their common liability.

FACTS:

Plaintiff's husband died as a result of negligence on the defendant's part. Plaintiff sued the hospital and the negligent physician. Before trial, plaintiff settled with the doctor, but went to trial against the hospital. After the trial, the jury returned a verdict finding the decedent 46% negligent in causing his own death, the hospital 36% negligent, and the doctor 18% negligent. The trial court entered a judgment in the plaintiff's favor, but subsequently set aside the original jury award and entered a judgment of no cause of action and dismissed the complaint. Plaintiff appeals.

ISSUE:

Whether the Utah Comparative Negligence Act (Act) required the negligence of each defendant in a multi-defendant case to be compared individually against the negligence of the plaintiff or whether the total negligence of all the defendants should be compared to that of the plaintiff to determine whether a particular defendant was liable.

ANSWER:

The Act requires the comparison of individual fault of each defendant.

CONCLUSION:

In reversing the lower court's ruling, the Court found that adoption of the rule requiring individual comparison nullified critical portions of the Act and produced unfair results for both plaintiffs and defendants. The Court also determined that the legislature intended to alleviate the harshness of contributory negligence and provide for a system of loss allocation by apportioning liability based, in part, on fault, and to provide contribution among tortfeasors according to fault.

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