For subrogation professionals, it is important to limit the liability exposure of your insured. In cases where the insurer, as subrogee, is proceeding as the plaintiff, this means limiting any direct claims against the insured – whether for contribution or indemnity – to affirmative defenses as opposed to third-party claims. Limiting direct claims against insureds not only keeps captions clean, but avoids strategic maneuvering by the defense that could negatively impact your case. In Ohio, when a defendant tries to pursue direct claims against the insured for contribution or indemnification, practitioners should, consistent with the analysis set forth in Continental Casualty Company v. Equity Indus. Maple Heights, LLC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54440 (N.D. Ohio, April 10, 2017), argue that defendants can no longer attempt this maneuver and that they are limited to raising affirmative defenses against the plaintiff’s subrogor.
When an insurer, as subrogee of its insured, files suit against a defendant to recover its subrogated payments, the defendant, not infrequently, files a third-party complaint against the insured. Typically, the defendant alleges that, if it is liable, then the insured, based on his or her contributory negligence, is liable to the defendant for contribution. Insureds, however, cannot be liable in tort to themselves.
Georgia’s apportionment statute, OCGA § 51-12-33, requires a jury, in some cases, to apportion responsibility for an injury among all those who contributed to it – whether a party to the lawsuit or not – based on each person’s respective share of combined fault. After the apportionment, each defendant’s liability is limited to his or her apportioned percentage. In Zaldivar v. Prickett, — S.E.2d –, 2015 WL 4067788 (Ga. July 6, 2015), the plaintiff, Daniel Prickett (Prickett), sued Imelda Zaldivar (Zaldivar) to recover for injuries that Pricket allegedly sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Zaldivar sought to apportion fault to a non-party, Overhead Door Company, Prickett’s employer, arguing that Overhead Door Company negligently entrusted its vehicle to Prickett. In addition to overruling prior case law precluding, as a matter of law, first-party claims based on negligent entrustment, the court considered whether “fault” can be apportioned to a tortfeasor whose negligence was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury but who is otherwise immune from liability.