Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

As Between Intentional And Negligent Joint Tortfeasors, The Negligent Tortfeasor Is Severally Liable While The Intentional Tortfeasor Is Liable Both Jointly And Severally.

penknifeAccording to its web site, CAFE MODA is the “Hottest Local Filipino Spot In Las Vegas”.  A few years back, things got hotter than expected when Palma and Richards got into a fight while on the cafe’s premises.  Richards stabbed Palma.  Palma sued Richards and Cafe Moda.  At the civil trial, the jury found both Richards and the cafe liable for Palma’s injuries, Palma for the intentional tort of assault and the cafe for negligence.  The jury apportioned damages at 80% to Richards and 20% to Cafe Moda.

However, reading NRS 41.141, the trial court determined that both tortfeasors were jointly and severally liable for all of Palma’s injuries.  In other words, despite the jury’s percentage of apportionment, Richards and the cafe were each responsible to satisfy 100% of Palma’s damages should the other be unable to pay.  Cafe Moda took exception.  It argued that since Cafe Moda had raised the affirmative defense of comparative negligence against Palma, it should be entitled to take advantage of the general rule found in NRS 41.141(4), namely, that it should only be severally liable for its 20% share of the damages. 

In reaching its decision, the Nevada Supreme Court recounted the legislative history of NRS 41.141 and found that since the statute said that negligent tortfeasors were each responsible for only their several share, the legislature could have never intended to burden a merely negligent party with joint and several liability for damages caused by a joint intentional tortfeasor.

Café Moda won.  While Richards was responsible to pay 100% of the damages, Cafe Moda could never be made to pay any more than its 20% share.

If you have questions about Joint & Several Liability in Nevada, contact or give us a ring at 702-240-6060×114.  Mike will be happy to discuss your case with you.