Unnamed Defendants and Verdict Forms

Personal injury attorneys are often faced with multiple challenges in trying to recover damages for their clients. One challenge a personal injury attorney faces is identifying the proper defendant or defendants responsible for their client’s injuries. In facing this challenge the attorney must make a decision of which or how many defendants may be sued, by and through the civil complaint.

For several different reasons, an attorney may elect to not name certain Parties in the lawsuit. When this situation arises, the attorney can expect that the named defendant may try to shift liability or fault to other unnamed defendants.

The Supreme Court of Florida in Nash v. Wells Fargo Guard Services, Inc. issued an opinion addressing this very topic. The Supreme Court held that in determining noneconomic damages, fault must be apportioned among all responsible entities who contribute to an accident even though not all of them have been joined as defendants. This decision held that a unnamed defendant may be included on the jury verdict form if the named defendant can meet the burden of establishing at trial that the nonparty’s fault contributed to the accident.

From this ruling, plaintiff’s attorneys should be cautious and expect that defense attorneys will try and shift their exposure for noneconomic damages to any unnamed parties who bear any responsibility for the accident giving raise to the plaintiff’s injuries.