The "all-or-nothing" rule of contributory negligence as it presently exists in this state should be and is herewith superseded by a system of "pure" comparative negligence, the fundamental purpose of which shall be to assign responsibility and liability for damage in direct proportion to the amount of negligence of each of the parties. Therefore, in all actions for negligence resulting in injury to person or property, the contributory negligence of the person injured in person or property shall not bar recovery, but the damages awarded shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person recovering.
Plaintiff sued defendant for personal injuries following a car accident in which defendant's car hit plaintiff's car. The court, sitting without a jury, found that when defendant entered an intersection, the traffic light was yellow and he was traveling at an unsafe speed. It was also found that plaintiff's left turn across adjacent lanes just before her vehicle was struck by defendant's automobile was made when a vehicle was approaching from the opposite direction so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. On the basis of conclusions that plaintiff had been negligent, that her negligence had been a proximate cause of the collision, and that she was barred from recovery by reason of her contributory negligence, the court entered judgment for defendants. On appeal, the court reversed.
Did the trial court err in applying the principle of contributory negligence?
The "pure" form of comparative negligence should be adopted in California in place of the contributory negligence doctrine. The court reasoned that Cal. Civ. Code § 1714 did not preclude judicial action in the area of contributory negligence. Thus, even though plaintiff contributed toward the accident, defendant could be held liable for his portion of fault. However, the damages awarded were to be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to plaintiff.