VERDICTS: HOW MUCH IS EACH DEFENDANT RESPONSIBLE FOR?

When dealing with personal injury trials that involve multiple defendants, clients often ask how the verdict or damages will be assessed amongst the different defendants.

Florida Statutes § 768.81 addresses the apportionment of damages based on a party’s comparative fault. Comparative fault is a legal doctrine that assigns a percentage of fault to each defendant or party based on their responsibility of the injury. Although there are exceptions, in general Section (3) of F.S. § 768.8 addresses the apportionment of damages and provides the following:

(3) Apportionment of damages.--In cases to which this section applies, the court shall enter judgment against each party liable on the basis of such party's percentage of fault and not on the basis of the doctrine of joint and several liability, except as provided in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c):

(b) Where a plaintiff is found to be without fault, the following shall apply:

1. Any defendant found less than 10 percent at fault shall not be subject to joint and several liability.

2. For any defendant found at least 10 percent but less than 25 percent at fault, joint and several liability shall not apply to that portion of economic damages in excess of $500,000.

3. For any defendant found at least 25 percent but not more than 50 percent at fault, joint and several liability shall not apply to that portion of economic damages in excess of $1 million.

4. For any defendant found more than 50 percent at fault, joint and several liability shall not apply to that portion of economic damages in excess of $2 million.

For any defendant under subparagraph 2., subparagraph 3., or subparagraph 4., the amount of economic damages calculated under joint and several liability shall be in addition to the amount of economic and non-economic damages already apportioned to that defendant based on that defendant's percentage of fault.

Thus, apportionment of fault typically is the principle in which damages will be assessed to multiple defendants.

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