On May 4, 2023, Montana changed its product liability laws when the Governor signed SB 216, which was effective upon passage and applies to claims that accrue on or after May 4, 2023. Among the changes is the adoption of a sealed container defense and the application of comparative negligence principles in strict liability actions. Montana also adopted a defense based on certain actions not being brought within 10 years. In addition, Montana adopted a rebuttable presumption with respect to a product’s defective condition. A jury must be informed about this rebuttable presumption with respect to certain warnings claims, premarket licensing procedures or claims involving drugs and/or medical devices. The changes to the Montana Code are further described below. Continue reading
On Friday, March 24, 2023, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, signed into law a tort reform bill, HB 837. The bill impacts, among other things, bad faith actions and attorney’s fee awards. Of particular importance to subrogation professionals are provisions impacting comparative fault, the statute of limitations and premises liability with respect to the criminal acts of third persons.
With respect to the statute of limitations, the bill amended Fla. Stat. § 95.11(3) and (4), to reduce the statute of limitations for negligence actions from four (4) years to two (2) years.
As for comparative fault, Fla. Stat. § 768.81 was amended to move Florida from a pure comparative fault jurisdiction for negligence actions to a modified comparative fault jurisdiction. Pursuant to § 768.81(6), as revised, in a negligence action subject to that section, “any party found to be greater than 50 percent at fault for his or her own harm may not recover any damages.” Section 768.81(6), however, does not apply to actions for damages for personal injury or wrongful death arising out of medical negligence.
For all cases filed after May 13, 2022, Georgia has amended its apportionment of fault statute, O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33. The amendment affects subsection (b), which formerly stated that in actions brought against “more than one person for injury to person or property,” the amount of damages awarded, after taking a reduction for the plaintiff’s percentage of fault, shall be apportioned among the person or persons liable according the each person’s percentage of fault. It also eliminated joint liability and the right of contribution. The amended subsection (b) now applies to actions brought “against one or more persons,” thus allowing courts to apply the statute to single-defendant lawsuits. Continue reading
Rhode Island’s governor, Daniel McKee, signed 2021 R.I. HB 5867/2021 R.I. SB 736 into law on July 13, 2021. The enactment changes Rhode Island’s products liability law and impacts how courts treat a manufacturer’s or seller’s claim that it is not liable due to a subsequent alteration or modification of the product. Continue reading
Many states, finding that the purpose of the strict liability doctrine is to protect otherwise defenseless victims from defective products, hold that principles of comparative negligence do not apply to strict liability actions. Georgia is not one of those states. In Johns v. Suzuki Motor of Am., S19G1478, 2020 Ga. LEXIS 760, the Supreme Court of Georgia recently held that Georgia’s comparative fault statute, OCGA § 51-12-33, applies to strict products liability claims brought pursuant to Georgia’s product liability statute, OCGA § 51-1-11. Continue reading
In Rodriguez v. City of New York, 2018 N.Y. LEXIS 793, 2018 NY Slip Op. 02287 (Apr. 3, 2018), New York’s Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, addressed the question of whether a plaintiff, in moving for summary judgment on the issue of the defendant’s liability, also needs to establish the absence of his or her own comparative negligence. In a 4-3 decision, a majority of the court held that, because the plaintiff’s comparative negligence is a matter of damages, not liability, the plaintiff does not bear that burden. Continue reading
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.