La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 2323 leaves it to the trial court's discretion to determine in what contexts the doctrine of comparative negligence should be applied. The question of whether other classes of cases fall within the category to which comparative fault may apply must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Application of comparative fault principles in certain types of cases requires a case-by-case analysis.
An intruder entered plaintiff tenant's apartment and raped her. Plaintiff brought a negligence action in the trial court against defendant corporation, the apartment complex's owner. The jury found for plaintiff and awarded damages against defendant. Defendant requested, pursuant to La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 1812(C)(2), that the trial court submit a special interrogatory so as to permit the allocation of fault to the non-party rapist. The trial court denied the request. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the denial. The state supreme court affirmed the jury verdict for plaintiff.
Did the trial court err in applying the doctrine of comparative negligence in awarding plaintiff tenant’s claim for damages against defendant corporation?
The finding of fault by defendant corporation was proper because there was substantial evidence that the complex's lighting and window locks were poor and defendant misrepresented to plaintiff tenant the complex's securities. The term "fault" as used in comparative negligence law, La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2323, permitted comparison of negligent and intentional torts. Whether to permit a comparison had to be decided on a case-by-case basis and after considering public policy bases. As to those public policy bases, it was found that it was improper to allow defendant to escape liability by the intentional fault of another defendant had a duty to protect against. Naturally, one would apportion more fault to an intentional tortfeasor than to a negligent one, which could have reduced defendant’s incentive to take precautions.