Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Nest-Kart

21 Cal. 3d 322, 146 Cal. Rptr. 550, 579 P.2d 441 (1978)

 

RULE:

Principles of comparative negligence should be utilized as the basis for apportioning liability among multiple negligent tortfeasors pursuant to a comparative indemnity doctrine. Comparative fault principles are also to be applied to apportion responsibility between a strictly liable defendant and a negligent plaintiff in a product liability action.

FACTS:

Appellant cart manufacturer and respondent corporation were defendants in a strict product liability and negligence action. The trial court entered a judgment against them based on a jury's finding of comparative fault on a 20-80 percent basis, respectively. Respondent sought contribution from appellant for an additional 30 percent of the judgment, so as to achieve an equal apportionment between them. The trial court, acting pursuant to Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §§ 875, 876, granted respondent's motion and ordered a 50-50 percentage liability of the parties. On appeal, the state supreme court reversed the trial court’s order.

ISSUE:
  1. Was the trial court’s order that apportioned appellant car manufacturer’s and respondent corporation’s liability on a pro rata basis, pursuant to Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §§ 875, 876, in contravention of the jury's special finding on the comparative fault issue?
ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The trial court's decision was based on its belief that apportionment on a comparative fault basis was not possible. The comparative indemnity doctrine could be utilized to allocate liability between a negligent and a strictly liable defendant.

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