In many Florida car accident claims, there is more than one tortfeasor (wrongdoer) who may be compelled to pay damages to the injured victim. Prior to 2006 and the passage of F.S. 768.81, Florida’s pure comparative fault statute, injured car accident victims could seek the full amount of damages from a single defendant – even if that defendant was only partially responsible for the crash. That defendant then had a right of action to pursue action against the other responsible parties to pay their fair share. This is the doctrine of joint and several liability, but it was effectively abolished with the introduction of Florida’s comparative fault law, along with the 2009 decision of the Second District Court of Appeal in T&S Enterprises Handicap Accessibility v. Wink Indus. Maintenance & Repair Inc. In that case, the court held that defendants who intend to assert fault on a non-party joint tortfeasor need to do so as an affirmative defense. Another ruling in 2011 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (relying on the decision in Wink) rendered any contribution-related claims “obsolete.”
The issue of joint liability is one that varies widely from state-to-state. Recently in Illinois, the state supreme court held that a counterclaim for contribution by joint tortfeasors following an injurious truck accident was rightly dismissed, despite defendants’ claims that a prior settlement was not reached in good faith because the settling defendant’s conduct was intentional.
Here’s what happened: Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle traveling on the interstate around 1:30 a.m. At the time, three lanes were closed due to construction. One defendant, a truck driver, was traveling in his semi truck behind plaintiff. He was operating this truck on behalf of his employer and the carrier of the truck, which are the other named defendants. At the same time, another defendant, a driver under the influence of cocaine, was traveling the opposite way on the interstate, made an improper U-turn through the median and collided with the vehicle in which plaintiff was riding. Plaintiff’s vehicle rotated and defendant truck driver did not have enough time to stop. He slammed into the passenger door of that vehicle, causing plaintiff serious and permanent injuries. Continue reading →